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While former President Donald Trump, who leads in polling, opted to skip the event, he reportedly sent Ernst's team an autographed motorcycle helmet signed "45 & 47."
DeSantis touched on familiar campaign themes during his remarks, saying that the GOP "needs to dispense with a culture of losing that has beset" the party over the past few years.
"[Florida] had a red wave in 2022," DeSantis said. "The rest of the country, not so much."
The Florida governor vowed to "lean into all the issues that matter," such as border security.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, one of the first candidates to enter the race, also alluded to increased migration as a top priority.
"We will go back to remain in Mexico because guess what? Nobody wants to remain in Mexico. We will keep the provisions of Title 42 and instead of catch and release, we will start to catch and deport and we will make sure when it comes to our national security that countries know what we expect of them," she told attendees at the Roast and Ride.
Others, such as former Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to declare his candidacy next week, appealed to Iowa’s religious voters, stressing the importance of "protecting the American family" and how "the American people are onto ... the radical left."
"Just ask Bud Light. Target. And by the way, a message to Major League Baseball: religious bigotry has no place in America," he said.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, talk radio host Larry Elder and businessman Perry Johnson also RSVP'd to the event, which turned into a major gathering of most of the GOP 2024 candidates speaking in the same place.
The "Roast and Ride" at the Iowa State Fairgrounds features a rally and a motorcycle ride and roasting of two kinds -- of meats and, this year, of leading Democrats like Joe Biden.
In addition to reminding voters how Democrats stripped Iowa caucuses of their traditional first-in-the-nation status -- with many in the party saying Iowa no longer best represented Democratic voters -- Ernst has pitched her event to Republican candidates as a necessary stop to engage directly with Iowans from across the state ahead of next year's primary race.
"Iowans are fired up to hear from Tim and many more conservative leaders," she said.
The setting offers a preview of the policy ideas and personalities that will soon take center stage on the campaign trail.
Ernst invited all major 2024 Republican candidates -- both those declared, like former President Donald Trump, and those who have yet to make their bid official, such as Pence, who recently made his own high-profile appearances in Iowa.
"The Iowa Caucus has always been about providing a level playing field for presidential candidates to come out here and be able to, regardless of resources or polling, make their pitch directly to Iowans," Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement to ABC News. "Joni providing another platform for Iowans to hear more from 2024 hopefuls at 'Roast and Ride' this year is well within the spirit of the Iowa Caucus."
The annual "Roast and Ride" began in 2015 and in its first year featured speeches from seven GOP presidential hopefuls. Trump headlined in August 2016 after winning the Republican nomination.
The proceeds benefit a different veteran's charity each year, as an homage to Ernst's service as a combat veteran, according to her office. This year, The Freedom Foundation based in Cedar Rapids was chosen.