- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2015

Though Election Day is well over 500 days away, voters are already primed to encounter political theater of the presidential kind — Republican vs. Democrat, weaponized sound bites flying and fact-checking in progress. Two-thirds of the nation would like to see a debate between Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and her GOP rivals — including Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson

So says a new Fox News poll which pays particular attention to “the two women running.” It would be something to see, though everybody here is deft at the dais. The survey also reveals partisan preferences: Republicans are most keenly interested in that Clinton/Fiorina bout, Democrats prefer a Clinton/Bush clash, while independents cite a Clinton/Paul debate. Complete numbers in today’s Poll du Jour at column’s end.

But there must be something in the air. Sen. Bernie Sanders is so anxious for the candidate games to begin that he’s already suggested the handful of official Democratic hopefuls stage a debate — with each other. He’s convinced it will spark voter interest.

“The people of this country are tired of political gossip, personal attacks and ugly 30-second ads. They want the candidates to engage in serious discussion about the very serious issues facing our country today,” the Vermont senator says.

PIG ROAST TRUMPS STEAK FRY

It could go down in the annals of Republican pop culture history: Sen. Joni Ernst has organized a 50-mile motorcycle ride across the Iowa countryside on Saturday promising good cheer and thudding Harleys, to be followed by a pig roast and political rally of the old-school variety. The freshman Republican’s inaugural “Ride and Roast” is already being compared to former Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry, a tradition the Iowa Democrat kept going for four decades.


SEE ALSO: Rick Perry sees repeat candidacy as asset in 2016 White House bid


On hand: Gov. Scott Walker, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, along with Reps. Steve King and David Young. Who’s actually riding a motorcycle is still a mystery. Ms. Ernst offered Mr. Rubio a spot on the back of her bike but he has turned the offer down, apparently. Horseshoes, whiffle ball and artful pork chop-flipping by the candidates are being encouraged.

C-SPAN, of course, will be there to bear witness to the big doings from 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, along with CNN, which has sent chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She will interview Ms. Ernst herself, along with Messrs. Cotton, Graham and Perry.

IDAHO GETS A REPUBLICAN

Scenic Idaho gets even more scenic than usual on Friday evening. Sen. Marco Rubio arrives for the Idaho Republican Party’s annual summer meeting, at an Idaho Falls inn overlooking the Snake River. Mr. Rubio is the first of the 10 declared GOP hopefuls to pay a call to the state.

“He will be a compelling speaker whose message fits well with the theme of our meeting, which is faith and family,” says state party Chairman Steve Yates.

The organization has a sensible agenda, which could do well as a template for other state groups: “To win more local races for Republicans, expand our grass-roots base and position Idaho to be a meaningful player in electing a Republican President in 2016,” according to Mr. Yates.

Then there’s the dinner for Mr. Rubio. Here’s what’s on the menu, straight from the friendly chefs: Thick sirloin, wrapped in bacon and broiled to perfection, topped with a Madagascar peppercorn demi-glaze and served with twice-baked potatoes and fresh sauteed seasonal vegetables. Also making an appearance: chicken cordon bleu plus stuffed portobello mushrooms with Sriracha sauce.

PERRYLISCIOUS

“This will be a ‘show-me-don’t-tell-me’ election,” ex-Gov. Rick Perry said upon announcing his candidacy for president in an Texas airplane hanger, flanked by Navy SEALS. Mr. Perry is prepared to show the voters a thing or two, including his close embrace of national security and a strong defense, plus his own business acumen. Though the press is eager to return to the his inconsequential gaffe during his 2012 White House run — forgetting the name of a problematic federal agency — Mr. Perry has re-emerged with Texas-style ferocity and unapologetic support for founding values, faith and secure U.S. borders.

“My friends, we are a resilient country. We have been through a Civil War, we’ve been through two world wars, we’ve made it through a Great Depression. We even made it through Jimmy Carter. We will make it through the Obama years,” Mr. Perry said. “The reason I am running for president is I know for certain our country’s best days lie ahead. There is nothing wrong in America today that cannot be fixed with new leadership. We are just a few good decisions away from unleashing economic growth and reviving the American Dream.”

ONE FOR THE PUPS AND OTHER FAUNA

A new bipartisan congressional caucus has sprung to life. Behold, it’s the Caucus for the Humane Bond — tasked with bringing a “common-sense, scientific and rational dialogue to the issues surrounding the physical, emotional and even medical connections between humans and animals,” say co-chairs Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, and Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat.

“From kids with cancer to veteran dog-handlers and their dogs, it is up to all of us to promote these roles in ways that benefit both people and animals,” said Mr. Bilirakis.

Among issues of concern: the fate of military dogs following combat deployments. And among those who joined the lawmakers to introduce the caucus on Capitol Hill: Naomi Judd, Marine Corps veteran Lance Cpl. Jeff DeYoung and U.S. Army Specialist Brent Grommet and their military working dogs Cena and Matty; plus Crystal the monkey from the “Night at The Museum” movies. The new caucus has enthusiastic support from the Humane Association.

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

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POLL DU JOUR

67 percent of U.S. voters would like to see a debate between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Rand Paul: 65 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents and 68 percent of Democrats agree.

65 percent overall would like to see a debate between Mrs. Clinton and Jeb Bush: 64 percent of Republicans, 55 percent of independents and 71 percent of Democrats agree.

64 percent overall would like to see a debate between Mrs. Clinton and Carly Fiorina: 68 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 63 percent of Democrats agree.

58 percent overall would like to see a debate between Mrs. Clinton and Ben Carson: 64 percent of Republicans, 56 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats agree.

61 percent overall say it’s likely the Clintons were “selling influence to foreign contributors” who donated to the Clinton Foundation: 82 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats agree.

51 percent overall say it would be a “bad thing” if a Democrat won in 2016 and “continues President Obama’s policies:’ 88 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of independents and 20 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Fox News poll of 1,006 registered U.S. voters conducted May 31-June 2.

Ballyhoo and balderdash to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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