Republican Presidential Hopefuls Flock To Iowa ‘Roast and Ride’ – ABC News

Seven Republican presidential hopefuls are in Iowa today for an unusual political event — half-motorcycle ride, half-pork roast, the full-day gathering is a chance for the candidates to start their engines in the all-important early caucus state.

The day is also shaping up to be a major moment for Sen. Joni Ernst, the freshman U.S. senator from Iowa who rode into power with a campaign ad that touted her experiencing castrating hogs. She has organized the inaugural “Roast and Ride,” which in addition to serving as a testing ground for presidential candidates, is doubling as a fundraiser for the senator’s political action committee.

Ernst, a Harley-Davidson enthusiast, is starting the day with a 39-mile motorcycle ride from Des Moines to Boone, Iowa that will take riders past Camp Dodge where Ernst serves as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. They’ll end up at the Central Iowa Expo (also the venue for the Iowa Straw Poll this August) where a pork roast and outdoor games (think cornhole and horseshoes) await.

The candidates and potential candidates on hand for the event are: Former neurosurgeon and conservative activist Ben Carson, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. All have formally announced their presidential bids except Walker.

Only Walker and Perry plan to actually hop on a bike. Perry, who officially announced his presidential candidacy last week, is taking his own route to Boone, starting out, appropriately, in the town of Perry, Iowa. According to his campaign, the newly-minted candidate will be riding a motorcycle that belongs to Taylor Morris, a Navy explosive ordinance disposal technician from Cedar Falls, Iowa who was injured while serving in Afghanistan.

All the hopefuls will have a chance to address voters at the pork roast portion of the event later in the afternoon in what is shaping up to be Iowa’s version of presidential speed dating. Ernst has given each candidate just eight minutes to speak.

A recent Bloomberg Politics-Des Moines Register Iowa Poll gives Walker an early lead here. The Wisconsin governor pulls in 17 percent support, followed by Rand Paul and Carson (10 percent each). Jeb Bush and Huckabee both garner 9 percent. Rubio and Rick Santorum each get 6 percent.

Besides delivering the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year, Ernst has kept a relatively low public profile during her freshman year in the Senate. And while the candidates who turned out for her “Roast and Ride” might be coveting her seal of approval ahead of the caucuses, which are set for early February, they are all likely out of luck. Ernst has already said she won’t be endorsing ahead of the contest.

In an ABC News exclusive, likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker comes to “This Week” Sunday.

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