Eight prominent Republicans geared up for the presidential race by partaking in the eighth annual “Roast and Ride” event held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds near Des Moines, an occasion notable for the absence of leading GOP candidate, former President Donald Trump.
Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) hosted this hybrid barbecue rally and motorcycle ride, drawing declared and potential Republican presidential nominees. The star-studded lineup included ex-Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Michigan entrepreneur Perry Johnson, author Vivek Ramaswamy, and conservative radio commentator Larry Elder.
Mike Pence, rumored to announce his candidacy soon, stood out by participating in a morning charity motorcycle ride. On reaching the fairgrounds, candidates delivered speeches and interacted with attendees over a barbecue lunch. Pence, a frequent visitor to Iowa over the past year, hinted at a forthcoming announcement in Des Moines.
“I’ll return later next week,” he told the crowd, keeping them in suspense about his presidential bid. “I don’t have anything to announce today.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his family also participated in the rally. He interacted with voters, signing autographs and even a supporter’s Bible. The supporter praised DeSantis for challenging media giant Disney.
In his pre-campaign speech, DeSantis stood his ground over a dispute with Disney about a Florida law restricting discussion on sex and gender identity with children in early grades. DeSantis lambasted Disney for endorsing gender ideology in elementary schools. They revoked Disney World’s special operational autonomy within its district, leading to a lawsuit from Disney.
In their addresses, all contenders cautiously avoided invoking Trump. Nikki Haley implied a need for fresh leadership, saying, “It’s time for a new-generation leader. We’ve got to leave the baggage of the negativity behind.”
Trump, the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential race, had been in Iowa earlier in the week but missed the “Roast and Ride.” During his town hall-style event in Clive, Iowa, Trump spoke candidly about his harsh political rhetoric, emphasizing that he needed to fight to remain relevant. He pledged to reduce inflation by boosting domestic oil production, highlighting the current economic chaos.
Notably, Trump expressed his indifference toward the expanding field of Republican presidential contenders and was puzzled over why some candidates continued their pursuit despite low poll numbers. Trump even jabbed at DeSantis, hinting that if it took him two terms to fix the nation, he should not be voted for, adding that he could get the economy “hopping” within six months.
Trump also expressed frustration over ongoing investigations against him, including one where classified documents were seized from his Mar-a-Lago residence, labeling it as one of the all-time greatest witch hunts.
Following the rally, the specter of Trump’s enduring influence over the GOP was apparent, despite his absence from the event. The former president, who leads the Republican nomination race comfortably, had visited Iowa just a few days before the “Roast and Ride” event. He hosted a town hall-style event in Clive, Iowa, where he spoke about his political strategy and views on the nation’s economic health.
When asked about his aggressive style by Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump stated that his political journey taught him the importance of a strong stance. He argued that his relentless opposition during his tenure required him to be resilient. Drawing massive applause, Trump said, “I won an election, and it was unprecedented … and from the day I got in [office], I was under siege … If I weren’t tough, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
On economic matters, Trump underscored the crippling impact of inflation on a country’s financial stability. “Inflation is a killer of countries … it’s cancer to a country,” he declared. He pledged to reignite domestic oil production, an initiative to drive down energy prices and reduce inflationary pressure. He underscored his concern about the nation’s economic health, describing it as a “total mess.”
The former president also addressed the growing list of Republican presidential hopefuls. Despite acknowledging the expanding field, Trump expressed bewilderment over candidates’ motivations with minimal chances of winning. He cited poll results showing some contenders garnering a mere 1% of votes.