BOONE, Iowa — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker remains the favorite out of the GOP contenders after Sen. Joni Ernst’s Saturday event in Iowa. He’s also in front in a recent Hawkeye state poll.
However, it was Dr. Ben Carson who appeared to have reporters gathered around him, and a crowd following him around as he talked with voters. Carson was tied for second with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in a recent poll.
When asked what he plans to do to continue to rise in the polls, Carson told Breitbart News, “Be myself and if people like that, I’ll rise – and if they don’t I’ll fall.”
Ernst was hosting her first Roast and Ride, a GOP fundraiser that drew roughly 1,500 people. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) attended, along with several of the likely and official GOP presidential candidates. They included Carson, Walker, Carly Fiorina, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
The Roast and Ride began at the Harley Davidson dealership in Des Moines Saturday morning, followed by a roughly 39-mile ride to Boone, Iowa where the cook-off and speeches occurred.
Walker and Perry rode motorcycles alongside Ernst, while the others met the crowd in Boone.
The event successfully replaced former Sen. Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry. The Democrat retired after serving 40 years in the United States Senate, and Ernst captured his seat in a close election last fall.
Perry, who officially launched his presidential campaign just last week, took the stage first. “Howdy Iowa – it’s good to be in the heartland of America,” he began.
He told Iowans, “You deserve a president that will wake up every day” and go to the Oval Office to defend American values and western values around the world.
Perry said it’s time to “open up the XL pipeline” and create jobs.
“This is going to be a ‘show me, don’t tell me’ election,” Perry touted.
Walker followed Perry on stage and began his speech by thanking veterans and pausing to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
He also took Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kauffman’s advice and rode Ernst’s coat tails into the event, as she is extremely popular amongst Iowans.
Walker thanked Ernst for letting him ride with her, saying Harley Davidson is made right near his home in Wisconsin.
“I love a senator who knows how to castrate a pig,” Walker joked. And when it comes to cutting the pork in Washington D.C., he asked, “wouldn’t it be nice if she had an ally in the White House to help her get the job done?”
The crowd cheered.
Walker touted the American dream, saying working hard and playing by the rules should allow individuals to accomplish their dreams.
He said no one signed his yearbook saying “hey, good luck being dependent on the government,” adding, “there’s a reason we take a day off to celebrate the Fourth of July and not the 15th of April.” In America we celebrate our independence from the government, not our dependence on it.
“We need to lead from the front again in America,” Walker said.
“What has made this country great – what has made us exceptional, what has made this the greatest country in the history of the world…has been in those times of crisis there has been men and women of courage,” he said.
“This has been one of those times,” he continued. “We did what was required to make America great again.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham also said he wants to lead from the front, and is tired of America leading from behind. “We need to rebuild our military,” he said, saying the country needs a Commander-in-Chief who has walked in their shoes.
Graham also took a minute to criticize the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, joking that it’s easier to meet the leader of North Korea than it is to meet her.
Carly Fiorina also took a swing at Clinton. Fiorina opened by saying she fell behind on her float and got a ride from a nice guy on a John Deere tractor. Now, Fiorina adds, she wants to ask Hillary Clinton if she has ridden a tractor, not just done photo-ops.
Fiorina expressed that her experience as a former CEO could help her find the potential in Americans and solve the nation’s problems.
“We need a leader in the White House who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo,” she said.
Dr. Carson took the stage and said he wanted to thank Sen. Rubio for switching places with him since he had to catch a flight, saying the candidates were all great.
“They’re good people – they’re willing to work together, and I don’t think you’re going to see this time everybody tearing each other up…that was a big mistake…we know who the enemy is and it’s not us,” Carson said.
He also was the only candidate that had a team passing out campaign gear at the exit to the event – great exposure since the event staff funneled all cars out of one exit, creating a long line of traffic.
Rubio followed what Carson was saying about the field of GOP candidates.
“We’re very blessed as a party we have so many good candidates – the Democrats can’t even come up with one,” he said.
The crowd laughed and cheered.
Huckabee also had crowd involvement.
“I’ll tell you where the economy is on full swing – Washington, D.C.,” Huckabee said.
He continued, “What do they produce in Washington?” Then a guy from crowd yelled, “hot air!” People chuckled.
“Grassroots is important, family is important, neighbors are important in Iowa and they want someone that fits that mold,” Ernst said of the candidates.
When asked how important it is for GOP presidential candidates to have attended her event – and other events in Iowa – she said, “I think in Iowa it is extremely important to do this. Iowans want to see their candidates reach out and shake their hand. They want to ask that question face to face.”