It’s about as unscientific as you can get, but the Rick Perry 2012 button is a hot item at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, where several major presidential contenders are fighting to win the who-is-most-conservative contest.
Perry, who is still just “thinking” about a run for the White House, doesn’t get here until Saturday. He’s got a book signing event scheduled in the morning and will speak to the gathering in the afternoon.
In the meantime, the button contest at the conference is well under way. At the Buttons by Design booth at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel, Christopher Davis was busy making up buttons that say "2012—Perry—President."
“Rick Perry, his buttons are selling, like, so fast,” Davis said. “It’s probably one of our top sellers out of the candidates.” The booth was also selling quite a few Perry/Bachmann buttons, with Perry as president and Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota as his running mate.
The conservative congresswoman got high marks for her performance in the recently televised debate in New Hampshire. She drew a large and boisterous crowd at the conference, which is dominated by southern conservatives. It has drawn several presidential and would-be presidential contenders, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
During her speech, Bachmann highlighted her legislation that takes aim at federal efforts to phase out incandescent light bulbs and replace them with more energy-efficient ones.
“President Bachmann will allow you to buy any light bulb you want,” she roared. Bachmann also called the Environmental Protection Agency a job-killer and promised she would make “the lights go out” at the federal department if she gets elected president.
Santorum spoke after Bachmann, and like all the other candidates here he stressed his conservative bonafides. He underscored in particular his support for steep budget cuts — including the controversial Medicare plan unveiled by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. But there were lots of empty seats as he began speaking, and rather than fire up the crowd like Bachmann, Santorum seemed to put the audience asleep.
The more fiery Bachmann probably would be fishing in the same political pond as Perry, should he get in the race. That's looking more and more likely. Perry sounded more than ever like a candidate during recent speeches in Los Angeles and New York and in TV appearances and interviews on Tuesday.
Republican voter Barbara Schroeder Hill of Austin, in New Orleans to see Perry and other speakers, said she voted for Bachmann in the conference straw poll because Perry was not participating in it.
Schroeder bought both a Perry button and a Perry/Bachmann button and said the duo would make a “strong ticket.”
The most popular item at the Buttons by Design booth, though, didn't come with any candidate's name. It said, “Kiss Me I’m a Republican."