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Political Mercury

Republicans ride to Boone, roast Clinton


Four hundred motorcyclists, led by a leather-attired Sen. Joni Ernst, joined another 1,500 largely Republican faithful Saturday for the Red Oak political star’s inaugural Roast & Ride, a blend of Harley-Davidson attitude, just-folks farm culture and open season on Democrats.

Pork was on the menu at the Central Iowa Expo just east of Boone. So was Hillary Clinton.

“We can’t afford a third Obama term in the name of Hillary Clinton,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Seven announced or potential Republican candidates attended Ernst’s fundraising event.

“We do hope we will do this every year,” Ernst said, saying she expects a much larger turnout in the summer of 2016 during the general election campaign for the White House.

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Presidential candidates, Iowa elected officials, Iowa voters and the state and national media mingled under overcast skies before the politicians took a stage flanked by flags, hay bales and Ernst’s signature Roast & Ride pig logo.

“I love a senator who knows how to castrate pig, ride a Hog and cut the pork from Washington, D.C.,” said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a GOP candidate for president. “Now wouldn’t it be nice if she had an ally in the White House to help get the job done?”

Walker, the current Des Moines Register Iowa Poll leader in an increasingly crowded GOP Iowa Caucuses field, joined Ernst for the 39-mile ride from Des Moines to Boone. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“I have had the opportunity to speak with Walker on multiple occasions and find him to be one of the most personable and approachable candidates I have ever met,” said Carroll County Republican Party Chairman Craig Williams, a member of the Iowa GOP’s state central committee.

Williams, like others, took advantage of the opportunity for one-on-one interaction with potential Oval Office occupants. Other presidential hopefuls on site were former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dr. Ben Carson, a surgeon and conservative activist.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who is not in the speculation as a White House aspirant, also attended the event.

“I had a nice conversation with Lindsey Graham and Ben Carson but didn’t have the opportunity to speak with others,” Williams said. “Walker and Rubio were constantly surrounded by photographers, making it difficult to approach them Saturday.”

Williams added, “Perhaps it was just where I was standing, but Ben Carson seemed to have the loudest fan base in the crowd, followed by Walker.”

Gov. Terry Branstad said the competitive Republican field is an advantage for Republicans in the fall of 2016.

“The Democrats are going to coronate Hillary Clinton,” Branstad said.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, said the race for the presidency is about nothing short of restoring the “soul” of the United States.

“I pray that God will use us to raise up a leader he will use to restore the soul of America,” King said.

Highlights from the speeches:

• “Hillary Clinton is the architect of Barack Obama’s failed foreign policy,” Cotton said.

• Huckabee supports replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax.

• “We made it through Jimmy Carter,” Perry said. “We’ll make it through the Obama years. I’ll promise you that.”

• Carson said he has operated on nearly 15,000 people.

• Rubio political shot at Clinton: “I don’t have a family foundation that’s raised $2 billion, a lot of it from foreign interests.”

• Fiorina said she’d like to ask Hillary Clinton if she has ever been on a John Deere tractor. “I know she’d had a few photo opps.” Fiorina added, “Mrs. Clinton, what else don’t we know?”

• On foreign policy, Graham said his approach would be “whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defend you.” Graham also said Hillary Clinton is running a bunkered campaign with limited access. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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