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Voters are ready for 2016 combat: Republicans would most like to see a debate between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Carly Fiorina. (Associated press photographs)

Voters already primed for serious 2016 candidate combat - including a Clinton-Fiorina debate

- The Washington Times

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

The draw of a pig roast and a Harley: Seven GOP hopefuls head to Iowa with Joni Ernst

- The Washington Times

The chances are good that Gov. Scott Walker is going to jump on a Harley Davidson at Joni's First Annual Roast and Ride, this organized by Sen. Joni Ernst -- described by the lawmaker as a patriotic motorcycle ride across the Iowa countryside to honor military veterans with full police escort -- followed by a "big pig roast" in the town of Boone. Seven GOP presidential hopefuls will be front and center for this bodacious event on Saturday, and Mr. Walker is one of them. Recall that his home state of Wisconsin is also home to Harley Davidson; he recently took the brand over to China, donned black leather and aviator sunglasses, revved up a hog and road into Shanghai himself to make the sale. So he may lead the line this time as well.

Happy fans cheer while Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in Burlington, Vermont. (associated press)

The Bernie Sanders Effect: Fawning media coverage normalizes socialism

- The Washington Times

There's yet another trend in the trendy news media, identified by more than one concerned critic. Consider a new Investor's Business Daily editorial titled "The soft-soaping of socialism in the U.S." The publication focuses on the happy-go-lucky press coverage of a certain Vermont independent making a vigorous run for the White House as a Democrat.

The new Democrat: Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley announces his intent to enter the 2016 presidential race. (Associated Press)

The $8 billion history of Martin O'Malley: He raised taxes and fees 83 times

- The Washington Times

He's telegenic, vigorous, a deft speaker: Martin O'Malley looks the part of an earnest and energetic presidential contender who could hold his own on a global stage. But now that he's officially in the 2016 race, those who recall his years as the Democratic governor of Maryland have a few numbers to share. According to a tally by the House Republican Caucus of Maryland, Mr. O'Malley raised taxes and fees 83 times in his eight years in office, to the tune of $8 billion.

Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to South Carolina House Democratic Women's Caucus and Women's Council, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Columbia, S.C.  (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

Hillary Clinton's tradition: Increase spending by $226 billion

- The Washington Times

Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign tends to be long on marketing but often short on substance in such matters -- prompting the National Taxpayers Union Foundation to seek insight through Mrs. Clinton's actual legislative record during her eight years as a U.S. senator from New York. The watchdog group found that her average legislative agenda would have increased federal spending by $226 billion per year.

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 is a demonstration not a parade, organizers say

- 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.