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Rolling Thunder founder Artie Muller has brought attention to veterans' issues for years; here he is greeted at the White House by President George W. Bush in 2008. (white house)

'Never forget': Rolling Thunder founder stays true to his mission for POWs, MIAS, vets

- The Washington Times

Rolling Thunder is revved and ready. Indeed, the capital of the free world will soon reverberate with the thud of several hundred thousand motorcycles, assembled for the annual Ride for Freedom on Sunday, piloted by patriots who have a mission on their minds. Despite the spectacle of noise, power and prowess, none of these riders forgets that the Washington visit is to draw attention to the visceral question of POWs and those still missing in action, along with the ongoing needs of military veterans.

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference gets underway in Oklahoma City on Thursday, drawing many GOP presidential hopefuls. (Oklahoma GOP)

GOP presidential hopefuls, Oklahoma-style

- The Washington Times

Oklahoma Republicans have their own brand of bodacious glitz, billing the Sooner State itself as a "united state built by an unwillingness to fail" -- and a global crossroads in the middle of the heartland. Now there's a showcase for such thinking: The Southern Republican Leadership Conference gets underway in Oklahoma City on Thursday, and has proven to be a powerful draw.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. (Associated Press) ** FILE **

Who knew? Republicans surprisingly cheerful about presidential election, says Pew Research poll

- The Washington Times

Despite persistent press coverage to the contrary, Republicans, and particularly conservative Republicans, are cheerful and enthusiastic about the presidential election next year -- and fairly pleased with the burgeoning field of White House hopefuls. Six-in-10 registered GOP voters, in fact, say they have an excellent or good impression of their party's presidential candidates, this according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. These voters also appear to be engaged and enlightened: Two-thirds say they are thinking a lot about the election itself these days. It is a dream come true for frantic strategists.

Rick Perry will be Iowa all week appearing at multiple public events; he plans to reveal his White House intentions on June 4.

Iowa blitz: Clinton, Santorum, Perry and Huckabee to cross paths in the American heartland

- The Washington Times

Americans still dream that some sensible, honest patriot will surface in the heartland, then run for office and rescue the nation. The numbers: 82 percent of U.S. voters say the nation needs to recruit more "ordinary citizens to run for office rather than professional politicians and lawyers" -- this according to a new Fox News poll. That includes 84 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of independents and 76 percent of Democrats.

Carly Fiorina is among a crowd of Republican presidential hopefuls racing back to Iowa to appear at multiple events this weekend. (Associated press)

Cruz, Bush, Walker, Paul and nine more - It's back to Iowa for the GOP kingpins

- The Washington Times

It's not heartland issues drawing an impressive group of Republican presidential hopefuls to Waukee, Iowa, on Saturday. It's the Iowa National Security Action Summit, a daylong event which casts critical focus on a weakened U.S. military, vulnerable electrical power grids and infrastructure; the threat from Iran, Shariah and the global jihad movement; plus porous borders and illegal immigration.

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is calling for increasing military spending and for the U.S. to aggressively confront Russia, China and others that he says threaten the nation's economic interests. (Associated Press)

He strikes a presidential pose: Marco Rubio reinvents 'Peace through strength'

- The Washington Times

Sen. Marco Rubio continues to perfect his presidential posture, delivering a major policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday night, revealing the three "pillars" of his ideal doctrine: A strong America, the protection of the U.S. economy on a global stage and the moral clarity of the nation. Mr. Rubio also alluded to the bywords of the Reagan era, when the simple motto "peace through strength" sustained the U.S. through the Cold War.

Former Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson is helping to lead the charge to open the official presidential debates to third party candidates. (Our America Initiative)

Libertarians take on the 2016 presidential debates, will sue to be included

- The Washington Times

Enough, already. The Libertarian Party is fed up with its ongoing exclusion from officially sanctioned presidential debates and the national broadcast exposure which comes with them. The party has already organized a public petition of protest and now plans a lawsuit against the "duopoly" of Republican and Democratic candidates who have a guaranteed national forum -- when alternative candidates do not.

Following Bloomberg News editor Mark Halperin's apology for a recent controversial interview, Sen. Ted Cruz accepts it - and moves on. (AP Photo)

Cuba-gate: Mark Halperin offers mea culpa, Ted Cruz says 'No offense taken'

- The Washington Times

Bloomberg News managing editor Mark Halperin experienced significant pushback from a variety of sources following a controversial interview he conducted with Sen. Ted Cruz. The journalist asked the Texas Republican what appeared to be flippant but invasive details about his "Cuban" heritage and use of Spanish -- oddly unrelated to political discourse.

Kirsten Powers' new book explores the role of the Left in silencing those who disagree with them. (Regnery Publishing)

Kirsten Powers: 'How the left is killing free speech' and demonizing conservatives

- The Washington Times

There's much talk about free speech, and the right to it. Now comes a major book explaining who and what is eroding this most basic tenet. Out Monday, it's "The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech" by Kirsten Powers, a lifelong liberal and daughter of a feminist who converted to Christianity as an adult and is now a frequent contributor to Fox News.

Ben Carson is taking advantage of his common-sense message and calm style on the 2016 campaign trail.

Why people listen to Ben Carson

- The Washington Times

Those who are dismissive of Ben Carson and his presidential campaign should not underestimate the popular appeal of his common-sense observations -- such as a simple message to voters produced as Mr. Carson rolled across Iowa in his campaign bus on Wednesday.

Rep. Peter King took to the airwaves to complain about unfair news media coverage of police officers. (Associated Press)

Media coverage of cops: Peter King goes after New York Times, Newsday and 'these other liberal rags'

- The Washington Times

The mainstream news media has picked up some powerful critics following relentless, often repetitive coverage of the Baltimore riots. President Obama was vexed at the press for dwelling on violence and mayhem during the events, overlooking the stalwart citizens who tried to bring order. Then there is Rep. Peter King. The New York Republican is weary of news organizations who don't offer fair-minded coverage to law enforcement officers. The lawmaker is particularly disgusted with coverage following the fatal shooting of NYPD officer Brian Moore on the streets of Queens. Mr. King had spent time at the officer's hospital bedside before his death, then went on to react to "anti-cop rhetoric" in the media.

Conservative maven Richard Viguerie says to defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton, Republicans should be challenging her policies. (Associated press)

Advice to the GOP: 'Scandal mongering isn't going to defeat Hillary'

- The Washington Times

Shrill partisan finger-pointing has its limits in the political marketplace, and could weary voters who are hungry for empowering facts rather than mere outrage and indignation. One conservative veteran points out that a certain Democratic presidential hopeful is deft at deflecting muckraking, no matter how justified.

The middle class American Dream appears to be shrinking, according to a new Gallup poll.

Shrinking demographic: 51 percent of Americans now 'middle class' - down from 63 percent

- The Washington Times

And yet another poll focuses upon a cultural moment with political implications. Gallup reveals that the middle class is truly shrinking: Fifty-one percent of Americans now describe themselves as middle class, down from 63 percent seven years ago; 48 percent say they are "working or lower class," up 10 percentage points since 2008. Among Republicans, 55 percent say they're middle class, down 12 percentage points; 49 percent of Democrats say the same, down 10 percentage points.

The alma maters of current GOP presidential hopefuls do not include Ivy League schools. (Washington Times graphic)

Harvard-less: GOP presidential hopefuls have 'delightful' lack of Ivy League credentials

- The Washington Times

A noteworthy phenomenon as 2016 looms on the horizon. Democrats often portray Republicans as pedigreed frat boys who are hopelessly out of touch with voters. It is a convenient and oft-repeated claim. But it doesn't have much truth to it anymore. Many of the current GOP presidential hopefuls are not quite living up to the Democratic claim. Which could be a distinct advantage.