Ames Straw Poll winner Michele Bachmann was determined not to let new entrant Rick Perry steal her spotlight. Especially in Waterloo. Two days after Perry announced he would headline the Black Hawk County GOP fundraiser, Bachmann told event organizers she also planned to attend.
Waterloo is where Bachmann spent her childhood. She launched her presidential campaign from there in late May. The Minnesota Congresswoman considers it her home turf and does not take kindly to a prominent new candidate invading her territory.
The scene was set for a political showdown. Over 100 media members from around the world flocked to Waterloo to document the proceedings. Perry, just one day after announcing his official candidacy, made his first foray into Iowa. As the media swarmed the Texas Governor, he showed an adeptness at retail politics. Perry worked the packed ballroom, stopping to shake hands and chat with several of the 300 attendees. Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann was nowhere to be found.
Rick Santorum, who placed fourth in the Straw Poll, also made a last minute decision to speak at the Republican fundraiser. The former Pennsylvania Senator chatted briefly with the Texas Governor before the speeches began. Santorum had another reason for attending. The strong social conservative wanted to remind voters of Perry’s views on gay marriage.
Last month, Perry said he was “fine with” individual states allowing same-sex marriages, although he personally opposed it. Perry said his views fall perfectly in line with the 10th Amendment and states’ rights. Santorum did not mention Perry by name, but made it clear that he disagrees completely with the Texas Governor’s view.
“Abraham Lincoln said, ‘States do not have the right to do wrong,’” Santorum exclaimed. “When we have people that say, ‘States have the right to pass gay marriage’, I say, ‘No they do not because they do not have the right to do wrong.” The crowd burst into raucous applause for Santorum.
Perry did not allow the slight to go unchecked. While responding to a question about education, Perry said, “A lot of those issues are going to be dealt with on the states. It’s one of the places where Rick and I do disagree. I do believe in the 10th Amendment.” He never mentioned gay marriage, but added, “There are issues out there important enough where we can pass a constitutional amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Perry’s speech was very well received by the Waterloo crowd. He was at ease sharing his views on the economy, spending, foreign policy, immigration and other hot topics. Opting not to speak from behind the podium, Perry grabbed the microphone and crossed the stage throughout his entire address. He showed passion, a sense of humor and a solid grasp of the issues. Inevitably, comparisons will be made between Perry and George W. Bush. There are similarities. Perry and the 43rd U.S. President have that a similar Texas swagger and accent.
Rick Perry made a wise political move by mentioning local Iowa companies by name while discussing the recent roller coaster ride of the stock market. Perry also promoted his Tea Party credentials. “You might have heard people say, ‘You Tea Party types, you’re all angry’. We’re not angry. We’re indignant. We’re indignant at the arrogance and audacity of this administration.” That was one of many lines that received applause from the crowd.
“I liked what Governor Perry had to say,” said attendee Ron Paar of Cedar Falls. “He had more of a national message to his speech and talked about the important issues our country faces. It was impressive.”
Black Hawk County GOP central committee member Dawn Young agreed. “I thought he was great,” she said. “He has a strong personality. He’s going to be a force on the campaign I think and he’s going to have a lot of support.”
While Perry was winning over the crowd, Michele Bachmann waited on her tour bus. She chose not to enter the ballroom until after Perry’s speech concluded. Bachmann’s entrance was awkward, to say the least.
She was introduced by the emcee, her theme music blared, and the crowd rose to its feet to applaud the Straw Poll victor. They waited. And waited some more. Still, no Michele Bachmann. People began asking each other, “Is she here?”
A pre-recorded voice blared on the speakers for yet another introduction. Time stood still and Bachmann still did not appear. Her theme music ran out, so the song was played again from the beginning. Finally, midway through the second airing of her entrance theme, the “hometown girl” made her first appearance at the event.
Some of her first words were equally awkward. “What an exciting night we’re having tonight, isn’t it,” Bachmann asked the crowd. “Isn’t it great so far.” Bachmann would have no idea if the event was great or not, because she had just arrived, two hours after it started.
The Minnesota Congresswoman offered her usual stump speech, talking for half an hour, mentioning Iowa over a dozen times, and not allowing any questions from the audience. She was well-received from the crowd, but some attendees feel Bachmann cannot just assume Black Hawk County Republicans will support her just because she was born there.
“I don’t think so,” said Dawn Young. “I think more people are focused on the message. They like her and her genuineness. I don’t think it’s so much her Iowa roots. I wonder if she doesn’t overplay that a little bit.”
“I think it’s wonderful to have someone local involved on the international stage, but I have to focus more on the message,” Ron Paar said. “We’ve got very serious problems we’re facing.”
Sunday marked an entirely new phase in the presidential race. Bachmann solidified her frontrunner status Saturday, but a whole new contender has emerged. One who might have the capabilities of uprooting Bachmann in her home state. If the response he received Sunday night is any indication, Rick Perry will be a major threat to Bachmann’s presidential hopes.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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