GOP can­di­dates stump Iowa-style

Sen. Joni Ernst’s event draws pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls for pig roast and mo­tor­cy­cle ride.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Lisa Mas­caro lisa.mas­caro@la­times.com Twit­ter:@LisaMas­caro

DES MOINES — As Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls ne­go­ti­ated a mo­tor­cy­cle ride and pig roast Satur­day in Iowa farm coun­try, the race was on for who had more swag­ger: the bik­ers vy­ing to be­come the party’s nom­i­nee, or the fe­male sen­a­tor lead­ing the trip.

There was Scott Walker, the Wis­con­sin gov­er­nor who is not yet an of­fi­cial can­di­date for pres­i­dent, front and cen­ter on a shiny sil­ver Har­ley-David­son.

And there was former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, rid­ing in from the next town over, who en­joys the Iowa street cred of one who of­ten ap­pears more at home in blue jeans and cow­boy boots than suits.

But Joni Ernst, the first woman to rep­re­sent Iowa in Congress — who promised, in a mem­o­rable cam­paign ad, to ap­ply her farm ex­pe­ri­ence cast rat­ing hogs tomak­ing Wash­ing­ton “squeal” — may emerge as the day’s leader of the pack.

“Ride to live, live to ride!” the Re­pub­li­can sen­a­tor cheered out­side Big Barn Har­ley-David­son in Des Moines be­fore climb­ing aboard her 2009 Sof­tail Deluxe and head­ing out for the 38-mile trip to host a pig roast in Boone.

“Joni’s 1st an­nual Roast and Ride” was part fundraiser, part cam­paign stop on the road to Iowa’s first-inthe-na­tion pres­i­den­tial cau­cus next year, draw­ing not only Walker and Perry, but Sen. Marco Ru­bio (R-Fla.) Ben Car­son, Mike Huck­abee, Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham (R-S.C.) and Carly Fio­r­ina.

Ru­bio, who didn’t ride but was plan­ning to join the roast, pro­vided much of the buzz as Iowans be­gin to take a closer look at the can­di­date, whom they ranked sec­ond, af­ter Walker, in the crowded GOP field, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Bloomberg Pol­i­tics-Des Moines Reg­is­ter poll.

But Satur­day also served as a com­ing-out for Ernst, the 44-year-old Army Re­serve of­fi­cer who wowed the po­lit­i­cal estab­lish­ment when she won the open Se­nate seat last fall.

Ernst has taken the old fash­ioned ap­proach to start­ing her Se­nate ca­reer. She has kept a lower pro­file than some of her fel­low fresh­men, as Se­nate tra­di­tion prefers, and has qui­etly gone about the busi­ness of do­ing her job, much the way another trail­blaz­ing fe­male sen­a­tor, Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton, once did.

She voted yes on the party’s bud­get, no on re­forms of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency sur­veil­lance pro­gram, and, at home, is vis­it­ing ev­ery one of the state’s 99 coun­ties, an Iowa tra­di­tion pi­o­neered by the state’s se­nior sen­a­tor, Charles E. Grass­ley, and now known as the “Full Grass­ley.”

Satur­day’s event, though, of­fered the op­por­tu­nity for her to raise her pro­file.

“I love a sen­a­tor who knows how to cas­trate a pig, ride a hog and cut the pork in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.,” Walker said, tak­ing the stage amid hay bales and coun­try mu­sic at the Cen­tral Iowa Ex­po­si­tion grounds in Boone. “Now wouldn’t it be nice to­give her an ally in the White House to help get the job done?”

As nearly 300 bik­ers gath­ered to ride at the Har­ley-David­son deal­er­ship just north of down­town, many res­i­dents ap­peared ready to hear the can­di­dates out, re­gard­less of their road­side abil­i­ties.

“My mind’s not made up,” said “Mo­hawk” Mike Right, an ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist for a mo­tor­cy­cle ad­vo­cacy group.

Ernst, who has not en­dorsed any of the can­di­dates even though Ru­bio was an early backer of her Se­nate cam­paign, said she too was keep­ing an open mind.

“What I’m look­ing for is a can­di­date who’s go­ing to stand up and de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion,” said Ernst, in jeans, boots and black leather biker vest, with a fanny pack slung at her waist.

On that, the rid­ers, be­fore board­ing their bikes, hollered ap­proval.

Scott Ol­son Getty Im­ages

GOV. SCOTT WALKER ofWis­con­sin, who has not yet an­nounced his pres­i­den­tial bid, rides to the roast.

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