Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are competing for many of the same voters. They’re even trudging similar paths. Both launched their final week of campaigning before the Iowa Caucus with events in Council Bluffs. They also spent the day spreading their conservative message throughout southwest Iowa.
However, the dual appearances in Council Bluffs provided stark contrasts. Bachmann’s campaign scheduled a visit to the tiny Scooter’s coffee shop. It was primarily an opportunity for Bachmann to receive media coverage from the Omaha TV market. Only a handful of local voters showed up, but media from around the country attended.
Bachmann arrived 30 minutes late, due to plane issues. She began reading prepared remarks off of an IPad. Bachmann then answered a few questions from reporters, signed a couple of autographs, and went on her way.
A few miles away, more than 125 caucus goers jammed into the Main Street Café to see Rick Perry. The Texas governor arrived about 15 minutes late. He had to enter the room through the kitchen because there was simply no way to fit through the other entrances. Attendees were virtually hanging from the rafters.
Perry was accompanied by Joe Arpaio, the outspoken sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. He is a conservative favorite who is renowned for his strong stances on illegal immigration. The event lasted only 10 minutes, with Perry hammering conservative red meat issues and playing up his outsider status.
“I’ve got all of the respect in the world for the frontrunners in this race, but ask yourself, if we replace a Democrat insider with a Republican insider, you think we’re going to really change Washington, D.C.,” Perry quizzed the crowd.
The quick visit was well received. “I’ve always been impressed with Perry as a person,” attendee Carl Heinrich said. “So many people evaluate the candidates on their ability to speak or their ability to debate and to me that is so superficial. The thing that I look for is the depth, the character, whether they’re conservative or not, what they say in terms of the issues that are important to me.” Heinrich, like many Iowans, is still undecided on who he will vote for on caucus night.
When comparing the two events in Council Bluffs, there is no question that Perry’s was more successful at the ultimate goal, which is to drive people to support you on caucus night. Although Bachmann received some coverage from the local media, so did Perry. He also made his pitch to some of the top conservative activists in one of the state’s largest and most conservative counties.
Later in the day, Bachmann fell further behind schedule. She arrived almost an hour late for a stop at the Pizza Ranch in Harlan. Acolytes Danny Carroll and Tamara Scott filled in for the Minnesota congresswoman as the crowd waited. They voiced critical comments against most of Bachmann’s fellow GOP contenders, as well as the media.
Scott even berated TheIowaRepublican.com for reporting on Bachmann’s frequent tardiness, saying it was “dishonest”. 54 minutes after the scheduled start time, the Minnesota congresswoman finally arrived. Honestly.
The majority of the 40 attendees remained to hear her speech. Bachmann spoke for a total of 15 minutes, while taking questions on topics like Israel, the second amendment and biofuels. She also pointed out the differences between her and the rest of the GOP field.
“I want more jobs for more Iowans. I know how to do it because I am a job creator, unlike Mitt Romney who has sent jobs out of the United States,” Bachmann said. “That’s what I know how to do. No other candidate knows the tax code like I do because I was a federal tax attorney.”
Shelby County GOP Chairman Larry Madson was impressed with the size of Bachmann’s crowd and the overall event. “Santorum had about nine people here. Pawlenty drew between 25-30. Maybe it’s because we’re so close to caucus, but she packed the place,” Madson said. “I think she’s going to do well in Shelby County.”
Later in the afternoon, Rick Perry drew a crowd of around 125 to the Adams Street Espresso shop in Creston. It was by far the biggest crowd for any GOP candidate in Union County this year. The event started right on time.
Perry was interrupted for applause several times and spent significant time answering questions from the audience. The Texas governor stuck to his anti-Washington theme throughout the event and made another pitch for his plan of a part-time congress. “Let’s cut their salaries, cut the amount of time they spend in Washington, “Perry said to applause. “Let them live with their constituents and live with their laws that they’ve passed.”
Although the audience liked what Rick Perry had to say, the event did not close the deal with the attendees TheIowaRepublican.com spoke to. “Somebody named Rick,” Jerry Hartman said regarding his vote on Tuesday. “I’ve narrowed it down to two. I thought he did a really nice job. He answered the questions honestly. What I like about him is he speaks from the heart. He tells it like it is.”
After the Creston event, Perry ventured to Osceola. Michele Bachmann will visit both of those towns on Wednesday. She is clearly making more campaign stops, but one has to wonder if quality will trump quantity. Southwest Iowa is not heavily populated, for the most part. However, it is a conservative section of the state that is being ignored by other campaigns. The candidates are wise to spend time there.
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