COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa—Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) blitzed through Iowa Friday with the swagger of a rock star, elevating his high-octane campaign with a series of stage-managed campaign events.
As the only sitting governor pursuing the GOP nomination for president, Perry’s Texas-sized entourage and personality project an aura of authority that other candidates envy. His style, though, may risk alienating Iowans accustomed to lower key campaigning and more time for back-and-forth over issues.
For example, Perry traveled to campaign events throughout Iowa in a 22-seat Gulfstream IV jet owned by Wells Fargo Equipment Finance, Inc., a subsidiary of the banking conglomerate. The plane has ferried Perry since at least Sept. 12, when it left Austin, Texas for Tampa., Fla., where Perry participated in the CNN-Tea Party Express debate. Perry’s use of corporate jets, a perk most other candidates lack, allowed Perry to cram five public events into four days. But the propriety of jetting around the Hawkeye State for retail political events in a corporate jet could crimp Perry’s populist touch among fickle, frugal Iowans.
Perry holds a dominating lead in national and Iowa caucus polling, and his popularity showed in swelling crowds at each of his campaign events. As a moderate drizzle soaked Newton Friday morning, Perry met Julie Hodge outside her cafe, Uncle Nancy’s Coffeehouse & Eatery, and chatted for a few minutes about economic issues. Perry lingered with Hodge for a few minutes before addressing a throng of 160 people—double what former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) drew to the same venue.
“Government can’t create jobs,” Perry told her outside. “You create jobs.”
Perry touted Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s role in jump-starting the state’s economy by getting government out of the way: “Gov. Branstad is doing a really good job of getting this state back [to being] competitive again,” Perry said, mentioning the announcement that Alcoa, Inc. would invest $300 million to his Davenport facility, adding 150 jobs. “He and I have had some conversations about how the states have to compete against each other, too.”
Hodge, who worries about the impact of state and federal taxes on her struggling business, said Perry’s personal touch on economic issues impressed her. Hodge is a registered Democrat but said that she’s leaning toward supporting a Republican in the Iowa caucuses. Her husband once worked at the Maytag Corporation, which closed its Newton headquarters and manufacturing plants after the Whirlpool Corporation bought the appliance company in 2006, putting some 1,800 people out of work.
“When everyone talks about small businesses, they’re talking 200 to 500 people. I’m talking about five to seven people,” said Hodge, a Newton native. “[Business] is not good. People said that when Maytag left it wasn’t going to hurt Newton. It has. We’ve lost a lot of good middle class families.”
Perry continued his focus on economic issues at a lunch hour speech before about 350 attendees of the Iowa Credit Union Convention. He called for repealing the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill and a health care overhaul passed by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. Perry says his governing philosophy is based on four principles: fiscal restraint, low taxes along with fair and predictable regulations, a legal system that discourages frivolous lawsuits against business, and a government that unleashes private sector job growth.
Perry mentioned his conversation with Hodge to illustrate his point: “This is a lady who lost her job. We were over in Newton. She lost her job at a telecommunications company. She bought a restaurant. She was making ends meet. And I said, ‘What’s your biggest concern?’ And she said, ‘Over taxation and over regulation.’ This is not hard to understand.”
Perry called Washington bureaucrats who craft regulations out of touch with the concerns of credit unions, citing the “arbitrary” restriction on credit unions from lending more than 12.25 percent of their assets to businesses. Perry said the impact of Dodd-Frank has held back both large and small financial institutions from lending capital to businesses.
“Congress by and large has tried to pass one-size fits all regulations,” Perry said. “You can’t build regulations, in my opinion, that will fit all across the spectrum. One size may work fine for gym socks, but it doesn’t work very well for the consumer lending industry, for instance.”
“A couple of people have tried to get me to takes sides between credit unions and banks,” he said. “Well, that’d be kind of like picking between Iowa and Iowa State. I don’t think I’ll go there.”
It’s doubtful that Perry was taking a veiled shot at a rival candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who wore a dual Iowa-Iowa State jersey to a tailgate before last week’s intrastate match-up. In contrast, Perry bashed the record of Romney at every campaign stop in increasingly pointed criticisms of Romney’s record and conservative bona fides.
“The model for socialized medicine has been tried before. And it didn’t work. It failed miserably, whether it was in Western Europe or Massachusetts,” Perry said. “It’s not just about Massachusetts, because when that plan took effect, it also increased Medicaid and Medicare costs by almost $4 billion as well. Guess who paid for that? People right here in Iowa…”
In each of his stump speeches, Perry cited a study by the Beacon Hill Institute, a free-market think tank, showing that the health care plan destroyed 18,000 jobs. The Romney campaign disputes the methodology of the study.
“I was the son of tenant farmers. I wasn’t born with four aces in my hand,” Perry said, taking a shot at Romney’s comments at the Tampa debate suggesting that Perry’s record on jobs growth in Texas was due to luck—as well as Romney’s wealth and privileged upbringing. “Like a lot of you, I view the pathway to success as the product of hard work.”
Perry also pushed back against Romney on entitlement issues, questioning the retirement age of 65 for Social Security after Romney attacked Perry on Social Security from the left.
“Those that are on Social Security today, those that are approaching that age, this program is going to be there for you… under any circumstance,” he said. “But we need to have a conversation, as Americans, about how are those young, mid-career workers going to know that there’s gonna be a program for their retirement when they get ready?”
“Let’s not scare seniors and tell them that this program is going to go away,” Perry said, referring to recent criticism by Romney that Perry should not have called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. “That is political cowardice at its greatest… We will fix the Social Security system so that it will be there for our young workers.”
Perry then flew to Atlantic, where he toured the Atlantic Bottling Company, a privately owned distributor and bottler of Coca-Cola products in Iowa and then spoke to about 30 employees at the facility. Perry sauntered up to the state sipping a regular Coke along with company owner Kirk Tyler, a registered Republican who said he’s still evaluating which candidate to support.
Perry continued his verbal assault on Romney: “President Obama has to answer for his failed economic policies. Gov. Romney has to answer for that fact as well. Despite his private sector experience, which I highly respect, when he had the chance to transfer that to the public sector as governor of Massachusetts, the state was 47th in the nation in job creation.”
After Perry repeated his “four aces” comment, a reporter for The Washington Post asked if it was a dig at Romney. “Exactly,” Perry replied. “I would suggest to you there are a lot of people in Texas that are a bit offended by his remarks that somehow or another the Texas economy is due to luck.”
Perry ended his campaign swing at Tish’s Restaurant in Council Bluffs, speaking to a crowd that swelled to about 180 people. Kathy Tisher, the restaurant’s owner and a Council Bluffs native, said she talked with Perry before the event about taxes and other issues impacting her restaurant. Tisher and her husband have hosted other GOP candidates, but no other campaign has generated the energy and excitement of Perry.
“I was like, ‘whoa!’” she said. “I was stunned at the number of people.”
Tisher said that, compared to other states, Iowa’s economy is doing relatively well, but border state communities face additional pressures that strain low margin businesses. “We compete with Nebraska a lot,” she said.
A local GOP activist attending the event said that Perry sealed the deal for her that night. The woman, a widow and a volunteer at an animal shelter, pinned a Perry button on her shirt and told staffers that she would volunteer for the campaign in Western Iowa. Perry’s charm campaign—he put his arm around her and looked her in the eye as he answered a question—won her over.
Perry ended at Tish’s with his signature stump speech sound bite: “I wanna share one promise that I will make for you… I will try to make Washington, D.C. as inconsequential in your life as I can.”
The well choreographed day ended with a bit of chaos: a man collapsed with an epileptic seizure and two Ron Paul supporters ranted at Perry as he left the event about his supposed connection to the Bilderberg conference, a favorite topic of conspiracy enthusiasts.
“Ok, boys,” Perry said to his phalanx of operatives and bodyguards. “We ready to roll?”
|From Rick Perry flying high in Iowa|
blog comments powered by Disqus