Eight Republican presidential hopefuls have descended on Iowa to make their pitches to voters and, in the case of former vice-president Mike Pence, go canvassing on a motorbike.
Both he and Florida governor Ron DeSantis joined host US Senator Joni Ernst and the other Republican White House contenders at a rally in the state fairgrounds near Des Moines.
Ernst’s annual political event, the Roast and Ride, a combination barbecue-rally and motorcycle ride, kick-starts a hectic summer campaign heading into the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses next year.
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Donald Trump, the former president and leading Republican candidate for 2024’s presidency, was not there — he had already spent two days in the state and has largely avoided any events that would have him sharing the stage with his presidential rivals.
Mr DeSantis and his wife Casey, with three children in tow, chatted with voters, gave autographs and signed the Bible of one man who reportedly thanked Mr DeSantis for “standing up to Disney”.
Casey DeSantis was seen wearing a black leather jacket with, on the back, a Florida logo and the words “Where Woke Goes To Die”.
Some likened the gesture to Melania Trump, who famously sent a back-of-the-jacket message of her own in 2018 that said, “ I really don’t care do u ” as she left the White House on a trip to see migrant children in Texas.
Mr Pence was the only White House hopeful to participate in a motorcycle ride for charity — a tradition of Ms Ernst’s annual Roast and Ride event.
The former Indiana governor, who has visited Iowa several times in the past year, is expected to launch his much-anticipated campaign at an event in Des Moines on Wednesday. “I’ll be back a little later next week,” he was heard telling the crowd later. “I don’t have anything to announce today.”
Before setting out on their motorcycle ride, Mr Pence, standing with Ms Ernst in the back of a pickup truck, again hinted at his looming candidacy. “One of the reporters just asked me if we’re showing up more in Iowa, what our lane would be,” he said. “I said I’m more worried about the lane we’re going to be staying in today.”
He then rode off on a Harley Davidson, wearing a white helmet and a big grin.
The group rode to the fairgrounds, where candidates gave speeches and chatted with barbecue-eating voters.
Other candidates speaking at the event included former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, author Vivek Ramaswamy and conservative talk radio host Larry Elder. About 1,000 people gathered to hear the presidential prospects speaking.
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