Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa Representative Steve King, State GOP Chairman Jeff Kauffman share the stage during Iowa Senator Joni Ernst's second annual Roast and Ride event in Des Moines on Saturday, August 27, 2016. The event started with a 42-mile motorcycle ride from the Big Barn Harley-Davidson dealership to the Iowa State Fairgrounds where Ernst hosted a rally with fellow Republican leaders headlined by Trump. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)
Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa Representative Steve King, State GOP Chairman Jeff Kauffman share the stage during Iowa Senator Joni Ernst's second annual Roast and Ride event in Des Moines on Saturday, August 27, 2016. The event started with a 42-mile motorcycle ride from the Big Barn Harley-Davidson dealership to the Iowa State Fairgrounds where Ernst hosted a rally with fellow Republican leaders headlined by Trump. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Trump headlines Ernst fundraiser

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By Matthew Jack | matthew-jack@uiowa.edu

DES MOINES — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump headlined the second annual Roast and Ride fundraiser hosted by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) on Saturday, painting a Republican party embodying unity and hope.

Ernst led a motorcycle ride from the Big Barn Harley-Davidson dealership in Des Moines to the Iowa State Fairgrounds in honor of U.S. military veterans, and plans to donate proceeds from the event to SoldierStrong — a charity for veterans seriously injured in combat.

At the fairgrounds, Iowa GOP leaders including Gov. Terry Branstad, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Rep. Steve King, and Rep. Rob Blum joined Ernst in speaking about uniting the party in Iowa around Trump in order to defeat his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton.

Trump emphasized his positions on issues like immigration, national security, and policies important to Iowa farmers like the Renewable Fuel Standard — a mandate requiring the use of corn-based ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply — while portraying the GOP as a party of hope and unity.

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“This year, the GOP is offering the voters a chance to break up the corrupt establishment and to create a new American future,” Trump said in his prepared speech — a marked shift in delivery from the notoriously off-the-cuff candidate. “That is why this is such an exciting year to be a Republican, and to vote Republican.”

Andy Hill of Manly, IA said he felt a sense of “commonality we have as Iowans and conservatives.” Referring to the opening prayer at the Harley-Davidson dealership, Hill said “those that didn’t participate in the prayer were respectful. Everyone has different perspectives but we are moving forward as one.”

However, Hill expressed a desire to see the presidential race become more positive, and that partisanship had damaged the political process. “I think we got things done when [elected officials] were able to sit down, relax, and have a conversation — not just throw hand grenades from the other side of the aisle,” he said.

After promising recently to improve his campaign’s outreach to minority voters, Trump repeated an address to African-American voters he originally gave at a Wisconsin rally this month, saying Democrats have failed crime-ridden communities in heavily blue cities like Chicago.

“We have bad schools, no jobs, high crime, and no hope. It can’t get any worse,” he said. “What do you have to lose?”

RELATED: Political hopefuls tour Iowa State Fair

Trump invited the family of Sarah Root — a 21-year-old native Iowan who was killed by an undocumented immigrant in a drunk-driving incident — to speak about their support for Trump’s immigration plan. Root’s mother criticized Clinton’s immigration policy, saying it would lead to more crime and more victims like their daughter.

Trump accused Clinton of “fear-mongering,” but cited Border Patrol agents who had endorsed his campaign and “warned that Hillary Clinton’s plan is ‘deeply dangerous,’ ‘divisive,’ ‘radical,’ ‘reckless,’ ‘wrecking innocent lives,’ ‘panders to extremists,’ and would create ‘unprecedented crisis’.” Instead, he said, “I want to empower people. Hillary Clinton wants to scare people.”

In a statement released following a conference call in advance of Trump’s visit, Iowa Democratic leaders Rep. Dave Loebsack, U.S. Senate candidate Patty Judge, and U.S. House candidates Jim Mowrer and Kim Weaver “criticized their Republican opponents for embracing Trump’s divisive rhetoric and dangerous plans that would hurt working families.”

“No matter what [Trump] says, he can’t revise his history of attacking veterans, women, African-Americans, Latinos, and Americans with disabilities. This is who Donald Trump is,” the statement read.

But Trump’s supporters feel that his language is being unfairly represented in the media. Sandi Winton, a Glenwood resident who has supported Trump since 2008, said his controversial comments didn’t waver her support.

“He’s not a slick polished politician…that’s what I like about him, he’s not smooth around the edges,” said Winton. “He’s just a normal guy like me or you.”

Follow Matthew Jack (@matthewmjack) on Twitter for updates on the campaign trail in Iowa

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the statement from Hillary for Iowa.