SIOUX CITY – Former Texas Governor Rick Perry believes he has a strong case to make for why someone with his background should be the next president of the United States.
“I think the American people are going to make a rather substantive shift to a tested, results-oriented individual who has executive experience,” Perry said. “There are some of us out there that fit that mold and I think that’s important for us.”
Perry says the country has struggled the past six years under the leadership of Barack Obama, who became president while still an inexperienced senator serving his first term in Congress.
Governor Perry became the first participant in a presidential town hall series at Morningside College in Sioux City, organized by former U.S. Senate candidate Sam Clovis, a professor at the school.
Speaking to a crowd of 125 Iowans and a dozen reporters, Rick Perry seemed at ease with the format. This was a huge divergence from Perry’s style in 2011, when he delivered brief, prepared remarks from behind a podium during his campaign events.
Rick Perry worked the room throughout the hour-long session. He moved continuously, using hand gestures to accentuate his points. He spoke extemporaneously on a variety of issues. He bantered with Sam Clovis about their Air Force backgrounds. He also elicited applause and laughter numerous times.
“I thought he was great,” Clovis told The Iowa Republican afterwards. “It’s really a challenging format for politicians to come in and have town halls because there’s no way to screen the question, you have to show some directness and I thought the governor did a great job with a couple of questions that were pretty interesting.”
Perry spoke for around 35 minutes before opening up the discussion for questions.
An obvious liberal plant in the audience asked Perry how he could sit on a corporate board and act in the interests of citizens simultaneously.
Kevin Rutledge, a paid liberal operative from Des Moines, pointed out that Perry serves on the board of an energy company that is considering running an oil pipeline through Iowa. Perry responded by advocating for the need to make American energy independent. He then addressed the specifics of the proposed Bakken pipeline.
“I understand it’s in front of the Iowa Public Utilities Commission,” Perry responded. “I trust your citizens here in this state to decide whether or not that is a pipeline that needs to be built. The private property rights are going to be respected, the individuals are going to be heard out in the process. Now, if you don’t think that agency or that process is right, then go talk to your governor and your legislators and change that.”
The paid liberal operative began arguing with Perry and monopolized the Q&A session for more than four minutes. Finally, the former Texas governor shut the back and forth down, to the audience’s approval.
“How can Americans trust you to make-” the liberal operative interjected.
“The same reason they trusted me for 14 years to lead the thirteenth largest economy in the world and create more jobs than any other one,” Perry responded, eliciting applause from the audience.
Another attendee grilled Perry on industrial hemp, before inevitably turning the conversation to legalizing marijuana.
Rick Perry’s record as Texas’ longest serving governor will obviously be the main selling point in his burgeoning presidential campaign, for good reason.
“We added 1.4 million jobs since September. I kept waiting for the president in the State of the Union to give me a shout out,” Perry said to laughter and applause from the crowd.
“If you backed out those 1.4 million jobs from the total job creation in America, we would still be a quarter of a million jobs below what were in 2007,” Perry added.
The former Texas governor boasted about two issues that you would not expect from a Republican governor. He rattled off several statistics that showed improvements in the state’s environmental record. Perry also claimed, due to the right policies, there has been “an explosion” in the cultural arts throughout Texas. Securing the border was also a centerpiece of Perry’s remarks.
“He’s giving me hope as I’m listening to him talk,” said longtime Republican activist Shelly Kass. “Just listening to the news every day and how Obama’s not doing anything anymore, it just makes you not even want to turn on the news. It’s entirely hopeless. Listening to him, it’s like, maybe something can change and something good can happen again.”
Following the town hall meeting, Rick Perry took questions from the assembled media. He was asked how his views on states’ rights would jibe with social conservatives.
“There’s probably not a more pro-life governor in the country over the last 14 years,” Perry responded. “We passed a constitutional amendment in Texas that passed by more than 75 percent of the vote that made marriage between one man and one woman. I’m very proud of my social conservative record, but that’s where it should be done, not in Washington, D.C.”
Perry also responded to a question from The Iowa Republican about ISIS seemingly growing bolder, in light of the news that they beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in recent days. Perry says President Obama missed two key opportunities to put down ISIS in the terrorist movement’s early stages by arming Syrian rebels and the Kurds in Iraq.
“These people will do anything. They’re the face of evil. We should be incredibly concerned about putting together a coalition of Saudis, Jordanians, other allies in that region and eliminating (ISIS) with great totality and swiftness, this face of evil,” Perry said.
Overall, Rick Perry was very well received by the Sioux City crowd. Sam Clovis said the attendees he spoke with afterwards talked about Perry being genuine and down to earth. “And that was not the image they had of Governor Perry four years ago,” Clovis added. “The big difference between 2011 and now is his comfort, his confidence and his ability to relate.”
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