By Jennifer Harper

Heads up now, they’re on the way. Donald Trump, Jane Fonda, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Martha Stewart, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and the cast of “The Walking Dead” are among the 2,600 guests bound for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday night. The “WHCD” is that kind of event — chaotic but jubilant — and it holds the nation’s capital in a glittering vise for days. The dinner is a great equalizer. The famous, infamous and powerful stroll the red carpet, shuffle down hotel corridors, pass through security clutching a gilded invitation then inch toward a ballroom to dine upon medallions of beef with the president of the United States. The click of endless selfies will be thunderous.

Yes, well. It is what it is. What was once a banquet for 50 journalists has evolved into a gargantuan gala for celebrities, politicians, lobbyists, military brass, fabulous women, operatives and gadflies. Consider that there are only 240 officially credentialed White House “correspondents.” But so be it.

George Condon, the unofficial White House Correspondents’ historian, told me in an interview that the early days of the dinner were much more celebrity-focused. If you were famous and successful, you showed up with Bob Hope or Barbra Streisand,” Tammy Haddad tells Inside the Beltway. She is the veteran TV news executive and CEO of Haddad Media who hosts an annual garden brunch the day of the dinner.

“It is a rare opportunity for people who work in different parts of government and media to spend some time together. Someone should look at how many deals for some with a handshake at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” she adds.

The event could be getting upstaged, however.

“The week still remains Washington’s signature event, but the dinner itself isn’t necessarily the top spot for partygoers that weekend, as best evidenced by the fact that BuzzFeed and Facebook threw a party during the actual dinner itself last year,” Patrick Gavin tells The Beltway. A former Politico journalist, he wrote and directed “Nerd Prom: The Movie,” an edgy new documentary that questions the scope and direction of the dinner itself.

“More and more people are opting to watch it on C-SPAN at home and instead focus their time and energies on more intimate parties instead of a big ballroom gala,” Mr. Gavin says.

GOP HOPEFULS SKIP THE WHCD

Nine Republican presidential hopefuls have a different calling on Saturday. They will be in Waukee, Iowa, at the Point of Grace Church — talking up the big topics at the 15th annual Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “kickoff” voter outreach.

On hand: Sens. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz; Govs. Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal; and Carly Fiorina, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson will be represented either via video messages, or through a personal representative. Over 1,000 people are expected at the free event; the hopefuls will each have 15 minutes on the podium.

“We promise an in-depth conversation with the candidates on a broad range of issues. We believe this will be a first step for caucusgoers to garner information that will allow them to formulate their opinions on who they will support at the 2016 precinct caucuses,” advises Steve Scheffler, president of the coalition.

And, of course, this is Iowa — a state of opportunity. While he’s there, Mr. Rubio will attend an ice cream social in the home of a state senator while Mr. Paul will speak at an American Legion Hall and a local library.

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

“When did you personally begin to use the private email server?’

“Who ultimately determined which emails were private and which were official?”

“How was the IT equipment you used managed, maintained and monitored?”

— Three of the 136 questions for Hillary Clinton from Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, regarding her use of a private email system as secretary of state. The questions were sent Thursday to Mrs. Clinton’s attorney David E. Kendall; the questions are public at the committee website: Benghazi.House.gov.

FOR THE POSSIBLE LEXICON

“Bush Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Jeb Bush Rich”

— Another book is on the way from prolific and relentless author Peter Schweizer, who rocked the Democratic world this week with previews of his investigative book on the finances of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, titled “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”

The author is now working on a book about Jeb Bush and money, due out at summer’s end.

“What we’re doing is a drill-down investigation of Jeb’s finances similar to what we did with the Clintons in terms of looking at financial dealings, cronyism, who he’s been involved with. We’ve found some interesting things,” Mr. Schweizer told Bloomberg Politics.

FOXIFIED

Programming of note on Fox News Channel: “The Tangled Clinton Web,” which ponders the political careers of the aforementioned Bill Clinton and spouse Hillary at a pivotal time. The one-hour special will investigate their post-White House finances along with the “millions” of dollars in speaking fees and donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Anchored by Bret Baier, the intent, the network says, is “to take you behind the spotlight of the political power couple and follow the money to see where it came from, where it went and how it may have changed American policy. Also featured: an interview with the aforementioned Peter Schweizer, author of “Clinton Cash.” Airtime is 10 p.m. EDT.

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For sale: WilliamKoch‘s Eli Mountain Lodge complex; a total of 13 buildings on 82 acres, Aspen, Colorado. A 15,000-square-foot main lodge, three historic cabins and several family homes include 28 bedrooms and 25 baths, multiple spas, a wine room, a full-size gym, an indoor basketball court and an entertainment hall. Natural wood interior, ceiling beams, wall timbers and flooring; stone fire places, elk antler chandeliers, state-of-the-art automated security, custom windows, six stocked, aerated trout ponds, spectacular views, “extreme privacy.” All furniture conveys. Priced at $100 million; see the property here: ElkMountainLodgeAspen.com.

POLL DU JOUR

81 percent of registered U.S. voters say the Islamic State poses a “real national security threat” to the U.S.; 92 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of independents and 73 percent of Democrats agree.

17 percent say the Islamic State does not pose a threat to the U.S.; 8 percent of Republicans, 18 percent of independents and 24 percent of Democrats agree.

34 percent of voters overall say the fight against the extremist group is going “somewhat badly”; 32 percent of Republicans, 31 percent of independents and 36 percent of Democrats agree.

30 percent overall say the fight is going “somewhat well”; 19 percent of Republicans, 26 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats agree.

29 percent overall say the fight is going “very badly”; 45 percent of Republicans, 35 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Fox News poll of 1,012 registered U.S. voters conducted April 19-21.

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