DERRY, N.H. — Gov. Rick Perry, oozing confidence despite sagging poll numbers, fired up supporters at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Friday with promises to shake up Washington, enact big changes to Social Security and oppose efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.
Perry was both combative and conciliatory as voters peppered him with questions at the Adams Memorial Opera House in Derry. Software developer Mike Hillinger said Perry had been asked about his global warming skepticism but had “ducked the question” twice during his first televised debate.
“I’d like to ask you a third time,” Hillinger said.
“Great,” Perry answered. “I’m ready for you this time.” As the man kept talking, Perry said, “Hold on, I got the mic here. You got your question. I’m gonna answer, and I'll let you have a rebuttal.”
The governor then reiterated his skepticism about the science of global warming, saying he’s not convinced that human activity is contributing to it. Perry asserted that scientists are "standing up all across the country" to dispute the science.
“I’m not afraid to say that I’m a skeptic about that,” Perry said. He did acknowledge the possibility that “some small part” of global warming is man made.
Perry is back on the road doing retail politics after concentrating on fundraising for most of the week. He has taken a beating for his debate performances, particularly the last one in Orlando on Sept. 22. The governor has suffered in particular from fallout over his answer to a question about supporting in-state tuition for certain illegal immigrants. He has since apologized for saying opponents of the legislation are heartless.
Perry’s close rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, released a harsh new ad attacking Perry over illegal immigration. The fading Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann released one, too. Romney forces were also on hand at the Perry event in Derry, distributing a fake Perry jobs plan that was mostly blank pages — with a pistol-toting Perry on the cover.
None of the voters in the audience asked immigration questions Friday night, and the crowd was mostly polite and friendly. Nurse Cindy Brasier, 56, asked Perry what he would do to help senior citizens. Though he has made waves for calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie,” Perry promised Brasier that people her age would see their full benefits.
“That Social Security payment, in total, is going to be there for you,” he said, adding that others would fall into a “transitional period.” Younger workers, those who are now 25 to 36, would be put into a brand new retirement program.
The governor got a softball question from one voter seeking assurances that he would be a tough opponent to Barack Obama.
“We will take it to this president day in and day out,” Perry said. “Ronald Reagan said it pretty good when he said, 'Now is the time for bright colors, not pale pastels.' And let me tell you, I am that bright color."