Rick Perry’s bid to rejuvenate his campaign took him to Iowa’s most conservative county this weekend. GOP candidates have received over 75% of the vote in Sioux County during the last four presidential elections. It is one of the most reliably Republican counties in the entire nation. Presidential hopefuls are wise to campaign there early and often.
That’s what Mike Huckabee did. He started visiting Sioux County at least two full years before he won the 2008 Iowa Caucus. That effort paid off, as Huckabee picked up 53% of the Sioux County vote, beating the rest of the field combined by more than 1,000 votes.
Texas governor Rick Perry made his first sojourn there on Saturday. Over 100 attendees tried to pack into a room designed to hold around 40 to meet one of the GOP frontrunners. Much of the crowd had to listen to the speech from adjoining rooms.
Perry continued his practice of giving the quickest town hall meetings of any candidate. His speech lasted only 8 minutes. For the first time since launching his campaign in mid-August, Perry took questions from the audience during this tour. The topics in Orange City included energy, taxes, working with Democrats, books that shaped his life, and what to do with the millions of illegal immigrants currently in the United States.
The two most questionable topics on his resume, giving in-state tuition to illegals and his HPV vaccine mandate, did not come up during the Q&A session. Perry’s speech was well received by the crowd, but he did not close the deal with the attendees TheIowaRepublican talked to.
“I would like to hear more about international issues,” said Joanne Berntson of Paulina. “I’d also like to hear more on the social issues. I know he is pro-life but I’d like to hear him speak on abortion and marriage.” Berntson remains undecided on her presidential choice.
She is not alone in her desire to learn the candidates’ stances on social issues. Abortion and gay marriage are at the top of the list of issues for many Sioux County Republicans. This is an area that makes religion and values its top priorities. It might have been a tactical error on Perry’s part not to bring them up.
“I’m looking for a man who takes the Scripture seriously in his life,” said Gary Vander Hart of Sioux Center. “He must take Jesus Christ seriously in his heart. I saw it in Bush. I definitely saw it in Reagan.” Vander Hart says Perry is in his top two.
Following his speech, Perry met individually with most of the attendees. This method is very effective for him. Iowans want a candidate who they have met one-on-one, shaken their hand, and asked questions to. Perry does this everywhere he goes. It is Retail Politics 101 and the Texas governor receives an A+ for this effort.
Perry’s retail excellence makes up for his lack of eloquence on the stump. He does not provide the fiery rhetoric that some caucus goers long for. Perry’s verbal stumbles in GOP debates led to his recent campaign struggles.
Still, there is plenty of support in Iowa for Rick Perry. “He’s got a great record on job creation and taxes,” said Ron Van Beek, a Perry supporter. “He also has an excellent police force down there. That’s big plus for me. I tie that in with the military and national security.”
Perry’s job creation record in Texas sets him apart from the rest of the GOP field. Although jobs and the economy are the number one issue for most voters, Perry’s record will not be enough for his to win the Iowa Caucus. He is going to have to prove his conservative bona fides to Iowans. The Texas governor still has to work to do.
Photo courtesy of Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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