Des Moines, Iowa (CNN)In Iowa, you need every vote you can get -- especially from the state's huge number of Harley enthusiasts.
Can Scott Walker win the Harley vote?
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is still maintaining his early lead here even as hordes of Republican competitors scour the state. When Walker rolled up recently in black leather for Sen. Joni Ernst's inaugural "Roast & Ride," we were most interested in finding out whether his credentials as a Harley rider would automatically lock down a solid bloc of votes.
The answer? Unclear.
All the optics were working for Walker during the 38-mile ride this past weekend. He jokingly flashed his worn motorcycle gloves and license for reporters to show he was the real deal. He was swarmed by riders looking for a handshake and a word about their shared love of the road. Zipped inside the pocket of his leather jacket was a black polished stone given to him by a veteran that he carries whenever he rides.
But even with his biker cred, it was clear that that Walker, who is expected to officially declare his candidacy later this summer, still has a lot of persuading to do in Iowa, even within the brotherhood of Harley Davidson riders.
Ride Captain Asa Hutton, a retired postal worker from Ankeny, said he'd been completely turned off by Walker's decision to take on labor in Wisconsin -- and rode with a small donkey on his handlebars to show his allegiance to Democrats.
"I am very pro-union and I hate what Scott Walker has done to the union," Hutton said. "I'm one to believe that the unions built this country."
Travis Cullen, a 34-year-old Republican from Ankeny, said he was far more impressed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul -- particularly his longtime focus on fidelity to the Constitution and reining in the expansion of the federal government. Cullen said he wanted to hear more from Walker, and many of the other Republican candidates, on what they would do to protect 2nd Amendment rights.
"I think we've got a lot of good candidates that are set up to run," Cullen said of the field. "Right now I stand with Rand."
But for some riders like Matt Howell, who heads a Des Moines-based Harley group, Walker's love of bikes showed traits that he wants to see in the eventual Republican nominee -- and he said it would be a factor in his eventual decision on who to support.
"If you talk to the hard core supporters that ride, I think that would take it to that core demographic," Howell said.
Walker's position as governor of a neighboring state also clearly matters a great deal to some Iowans. Art Moulds, an 80-year-old mail handler from Webster City (who used to ride his bike across Iowa), described Walker's chief advantage in a word after shaking his hand Saturday: "He's Midwestern."
"They've got a quality that city people can't get," said Moulds, "—Self reliant. Reliable. They honor their word and their handshake."
But Moulds wouldn't hazard a guess on whether Walker would be able to hold his lead in Iowa with so many GOP candidates in the field.
"It's like a roulette wheel," he said. "Who knows."