- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This pig roast could trump a certain steak fry - and it will certainly go down as a moment in Republican pop culture history. That would be “Joni’s First Annual Roast and Ride,” a bodacious event on Saturday organized by Sen. Joni Ernst. It includes a 40-mile motorcycle ride across the Iowa countryside to honor military veterans - boasting good cheer, thudding bikes and a full police escort - naturally led by the Republican herself, a combat vet and a Harley fan. Next up on the agenda: “a big pig roast,” the lawmaker says, plus a political rally of the old school kind with much speechifying, plenty of good eats and a country rock band.

The event has drawn seven Republican presidential hopefuls and major media as well.

The inaugural Roast and Ride is already being compared to former Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry, a tradition the Iowa Democrat kept going for four decades. Some locals are whispering that the Ernst party could best the Harkin fete; the barbecue gurus expect to serve 700 pounds of pork alone as the afternoon goes on.

There’s spectacle - and photo ops. Indeed, GOP candidates hopefuls will line up at the podium, including Gov. Scott Walker and Rick Perry. Both plan to make the ride aboard Harley hogs from the excursion’s starting point outside of Des Moines, meandering northwards to Boone. They’ll likely be front and center on the line.

Also on hand: Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. The quiet word among organizers is that Mrs. Ernst offered Mr. Rubio a spot on the back of her bike - but he turned the offer down, apparently. The candidates have also been encouraged to try their hand at horseshoes, wiffle ball and perhaps some artful pork chop flipping.

Prominent politicos and conservative stalwarts will also be in the crowd, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, plus Reps. Steve King and David Young.

The press is eager, to say the least. C-SPAN, of course, will be there to bear witness to the big doings from 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, along with the FOX News Channel, which has sent senior correspondent John Roberts to the Hawkeye State. CNN, will feature chief Congressional correspondent Dana Bash who will interview Mrs. Ernst herself, along with Mssrs. Cotton, Graham and Perry. ABC News is also poised for coverage, showcasing their finds on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

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