BOONE, Iowa -- Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s campaign ads drew national attention last year, focusing on her experience castrating hogs and growing up on a farm, with the promise that she isn’t afraid to “make ‘em squeal” in Washington, D.C.
This weekend, she capitalized on her hog-fueled fame by gathering a slew of GOP presidential candidates for her first annual Roast and Ride. Ernst’s political fundraiser featured two separate elements: a motorcycle ride from Big Barn Harley-Davidson in Des Moines to the Central Iowa Expo in Boone and a pig roast, where seven presidential contenders were given exactly eight minutes to speak before a crowd of nearly 1,500 Republican activists.
Watch HuffPost's dispatch from the Roast and Ride above.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hasn’t said he’s running for president, but he was the only likely candidate who rode alongside Ernst on a Harley Davidson the 39 miles from Des Moines to Boone.
“He has that advantage of being a motorcycle rider, but then again I think we’re going to have a lot of opportunities to see our candidates today,” Ernst said.
All eyes were on Walker, clad in a leather jacket, with national media swarmed around his motorcycle, proving it may take more than a stump speech to win over Iowa voters.
“I love a senator who knows how to castrate a pig, ride a hog and cut the pork from Washington,” Walker said.
Newly declared candidate Rick Perry led a different motorcycle ride from Perry, Iowa, to benefit service dogs for military veterans. “What a great day this morning while I was out there on a Harley Davidson, riding by the heartland of America,” Perry said to the crowd.
With the Iowa caucuses only eight months away, seven presidential contenders spoke about everything from the economy to national security.
“I want to be president so we can create good jobs in America for Americans. I’m not a globalist. I’m a person who believes that Americans deserve good jobs,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“If I am blessed to be president, there will not be any doubt on anyone’s mind on this planet that this nation will do whatever it takes to help the people of Israel survive as a Jewish state,” said Florida Gov. Marco Rubio.
Pork wasn’t the only thing being roasted: there were no shortage of jabs at Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina brought up a recent Fox News poll that found 64 percent of voters would like to see Fiorina debate the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.
“So I was thinking this morning, I really would be tempted on that general election debate stage to ask Hillary if she’s ever ridden on a John Deere tractor, I know she’s had a few photo ops,” Fiorina said.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham came to Iowa armed with a few jokes about Clinton, who has recently been criticized for not answering questions from the press. “Hillary Clinton couldn’t be here today, because there’s a crowd that may ask her a question. It’s easier to meet the leader of North Korea than it is her,” Graham said.
Saturday’s event was held on the Central Iowa Expo grounds near Boone, where the Iowa Republican Party plans to hold its Iowa Presidential Straw Poll in August. None of the candidates have committed to participating.
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