Ernst brings Pence and Iowa Republicans together for barbecue

Senator Joni Ernst enters the Roast and Ride fundraiser on June 3 in Boone, Iowa followed by more than 500 motorcyclists. 

Maggie Curry

Senator Joni Ernst’s third annual Roast and Ride was a slice from rural Iowa, with high-profile Republican speakers there to celebrate grassroots politics. Veteran support and Christianity were interspersed with Republican values throughout the event.

“The early bird gets the worm.”

That was what the crowd was told for those who showed up two hours before the event was set to start. They were the only ones to make it through the lines and safety check points to get through the gate on time.

For the rest of the crowd, waiting in their cars, the arrival of the motorcade was hidden from them. Those inside the gate got an upclose view of 500 motorcycles riding around the Sukup silos. 

The atmosphere: American flags flew alongside and over an image of the Iowan flag. Country music came from the grandstand. The crowd of all ages  set up their lawn chairs in neat rows on the hay strewn gravel. If you’ve ever had a family reunion on a farm, you know what it looks like. There was even a swing set and bean bag / cornhole toss.  

The motorcycles were repeatedly asked to rev their engines if they supported, liked or loved Joni Ernst. It was Joni’s party, her time to show Iowans she was one of them.

This year’s guest list included Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Vice President Mike Pence.

A former federal prosecutor, Chuck Larson, led the crowd in the pledge. A Christian prayer was said after. The national anthem was then dedicated to Jesus and veterans. 

“Hey Iowa, how are you?” Joni greeted the crowd. “God bless you all in today’s heat, we wanna thank you for being here.”

The highlight came when Pence rode in alongside Ernst on motorbikes, about halfway through the event.

“It is great to be back on a Harley,” Pence said.

Pence brought with him thanks from President Trump to the people who voted in last fall’s election. He mainly spoke on the actions taken since the administration took office.

“President Donald Trump is a man of his word, is a man of action, and President Donald Trump has brought America back,” Pence said.

Pence highlighted low unemployment levels, along with two bills signed Friday supporting law enforcement in America.

“There’s a lot of men and women wearing the uniform of law enforcement and more than a few wearing the uniform of the United States here,” Pence said, asking for a round of applause for those in attendance.

Pence also addressed the second amendment, defense spending and illegal immigration.

“Illegal immigration is already down more than 60 percent this year alone,” Pence told the crowd. “And it’s gonna fall even further because President Donald Trump is gonna build a wall.”

Pence followed that up with sanctity of human life and climate.

“This administration has worked to prevent funding of abortion at home and abroad,” Pence said. “Just two days ago, as the world watched … President Donald Trump withdrew the United States America from the Paris Climate Accord.”

The crowd applauded enthusiastically.

“The Paris Accord punished the United States,” Pence reiterated. “How great is it to have a president more concerned with Des Moines than Denmark?”

He switched topics to what Iowa’s representatives could do to work with the administration.

“This summer, this congress must come together …. and we must repeal and replace Obamacare,” Pence said. 

The crowd once again gave loud applause.

“The Obamacare nightmare is about to end… you and I all remember the broken promises made to get Obamacare passed.”

For each he listed, the crowd agreed, saying “not true” to such promises as lowered costs and being able to keep a chosen doctor.

Pence spoke of a family who will lose healthcare, among the other 21,000 Iowans, who will lose health insurance because Wellmark will leave Iowa.

“Iowa is facing a healthcare crisis under Obamacare,” Pence said.

Following changes to healthcare, Pence said Congress would then roll its sleeves up and focus on tax codes, emphasizing cuts to business and death taxes.

“There’s an old joke, the tax code is twice as long as the Bible and none of the good news,” Pence said.

Pence said prayer and faith needed to be more of a focus for Americans in these times.

“I think it’s a good time for us to lean on that other kind of faith… it’s a good time for men and women to bow the head and bend the knee, maybe do that a little more often,” Pence said. 

He quoted Abraham Lincoln, who when asked if God was on his side, said “I’d rather concern myself more with whether we’re on God’s side” alongside the U.S. pledge’s final lines, beginning with “one nation, under God.”

He also shared a welcome to Kim Reynolds, newly made governor.

“Governor, you’ve got big shoes to fill,” Pence said.

“Even though I have some pretty big shoes to fill, I want you to know I’m gonna put on my heels — or I’m gonna put on my cowboy boots — and I’m gonna work hard everyday on behalf of Iowans,” Reynolds responded during her portion of the event.

Most of the crowd left after Pence spoke. By 3:30 p.m. the temperature was above 90 degrees.

Senator Scott had spoken before Pence, welcoming the crowd with a hello to the Hawkeyes team (no mention of the Cyclones) and the Hawkeye State.

“This is a state who believes in girl power,” Scott said. “God bless you guys for electing these powerful women.

“I look forward to the day when Mike Pence and Joni Ernst are on the same ticket.”

“That would be awesome,” a passing crowd member said.

Sen. Grassley was announced with accolades to his time on the judiciary committee and the nomination of Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Grassley said broken things Congress could fix were the tax code, immigration platform and veterans programs.

“Congress has a responsibility to help Trump deliver on those campaign promises,” Grassley said.

Grassley said Congress hasn’t produced the way it should have produced, but he hopes to change that moving forward.

“Washington is an island surrounded by a reality,” Grassley said. “It does not reflect the things I’ve heard from Iowans in the past week. They’re concerned about health care, they’re concerned about tax reforms.”

He spoke in support of Vice President Pence helping President Trump deliver on campaign promises.

“I hope people are kinda shocked that we have … anybody run for public office who ran on a platform and stand on that platform,” Grassley said.

Rep. Steve King was the only congressman able to attend the day.

“It’s so good to be working with people of like-mind, like-motivation,” King said.

He was speaking of the Iowa Republican representatives – both senators and three out of four representatives, a Republican president and administration and the State House and Senate also in a Republican majority. 

“Not only did we elect a president, but we transferred Iowan values into the oval office,” King said. “Build the wall, build the wall.”

“And they said we can’t afford it – we can build a four lane hallway,” King said. “Turn it sideways, add a couple of fences …. we can do it.”

King congratulated military action under Trump’s campaign and spent time speaking on his Heartbeat Bill. 

“If a heartbeat can be detected, the babe is protected,” King said to applause. 

Ernst spoke in between, reiterating her appreciation for her fellow veterans, her fellow representatives and the Iowan voters. She emphasized defense priorities, particularly against terror, and programs for veterans.

“As a nation we can go ahead with our own clean energy,” Ernst said in regards to withdrawing from the Paris Accord. “We don’t have to be reliant.”

Check out more photos of the event in our gallery.