PELLA, Iowa — Rick Perry, looking for the reset button on his flagging presidential campaign, is back in first-test Iowa for a series of candidate forums, town hall gatherings and meet-and-greet events.
Speaking to reporters early Tuesday afternoon in Des Moines, Perry promised voters would see a "very energized, very focused" candidate in the Hawkeye State. He also threw some jabs at his rival Mitt Romney, saying the former Massachusetts governor did not want wholesale changes to the tax code.
"Mr. Romney wants to leave the same tax rates in place," Perry said. "I don’t think Iowans are going to like that. ... It’s the people of Iowa that decide the next president, not the candidates’ opinion and not the pundits’ opinion." Earlier, the Romney campaign issued a press release calling Perry "wrong for Iowa," criticizing him over his stands on tuition breaks for illegal immigrants and economic proposals that fall short of the job creation needed.
Perry is trailing badly here, tied for fifth place with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to a recent Des Moines Register poll. He’s also been dealing with a series of costly distractions, from his comments on President Obama’s birth certificate to a viral video revealing a giddy and fidgety persona that ended up as fodder on the late-night comedy shows.
The Texas governor was back to his energetic and brash self during a televised forum Tuesday that was designed to highlight the need to boost the manufacturing sector. Perry said he would work to get rid of tax loopholes and stop “picking winners and losers” in the private sector.
“Washington corporate lobbyists are going to hate me as the president of the United States,” Perry said. “I’m going to take a wrecking ball to that corporate tax code and frankly the personal tax code as well.”
Asked about a U.S. workforce that needs to boost its skill level, Perry touted his controversial proposal to create a four-year college degree plan that would cost a total of $10,000.
When he made the proposal during the 2011 session of the Legislature, Perry said there were “a whole people whose jaws hit the ground and most of them are working on college campuses.”
“We have allowed way too much cost to creep into the cost of tuition,” Perry said. He said the internet can revolutionize the way people go to college.
“The idea that we’re having to force these kids to come to brick and mortar to be educated — that’s the old way of thinking,” Perry said. “We need to be looking at online ways to be able to educate these kids to get the type of skills that we need.”
The forum Monday morning was sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers and broadcast on public television in Iowa. Perry also held a meet-and-greet with voters, and later a town hall event, in Des Moines.
The Texas governor is counting on a big showing in the Iowa, which holds the nation’s first 2012 nominating contest on Jan. 3, barely two months away. Perry is courting the influential and large pool of evangelical voters to help boost his chances.