COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Gov. Rick Perry kicked off a meandering bus tour in first-test Iowa on Wednesday, exhorting voters to give him another chance ahead of the crucial Jan. 3 caucuses.
Perry rolled into Council Bluffs, near the Nebraska border, at about 1 p.m. Emblazoned on the side of his black bus is a new slogan that emphasizes his push to attract evangelical voters.
“Faith, Jobs and Freedom,” it says. The last slogan plastered across the bus when he first hit Iowa as a presidential candidate in August highlighted the governor’s vow to “Get America Working Again.”
Perry is hoping the bus tour will resuscitate his candidacy after he fell off the political cliff in October.
“I ask each of you for your support, for your vote,” Perry said to about 75 people gathered in a reception hall in Council Bluffs. “We need your help. I hope some of you are taking a second look and saying, ‘You know what? This guy does in fact lay out the plan to get this country back working.'”
Perry has scheduled nearly 50 events between Wednesday and Jan. 2. By the time the tour ends — fittingly, in Perry, Iowa — he will have visited some 42 towns and cities.
More than a dozen journalists joined Perry on the road Wednesday in a chase bus, equipped with wireless internet and electrical power, on a journey through the misty Iowa countryside.
“This is old-fashioned retail campaigning, kids,” longtime Perry spokesman Mark Miner said as reporters filed out in Harlan, where Perry was walking through the streets.
Traveling with Perry on this leg of the tour is Houston businessman Dan Moran, a former U.S. Marine captain who sustained burns on over 50 percent of his body after stepping on a roadside bomb in 2006. Moran, his voice quavering at times, vouched for the governor, who served in the U.S. Air Force, as a fellow veteran.
“I look forward to calling you commander in chief," Moran said after concluding his remarks.
It was a friendly crowd, and some voters predicted Perry would do better than expected in Iowa. Recent polls show his numbers have improved, from a low of 5 percent to as high as 13 percent in a recent survey.
Connie Clark, a Nebraska transplant, is planning to vote for Perry when she participates in the Iowa caucuses for the first time next month. "He’s got family values, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders," she said. "I like the way he looks people in the eye."
Tonight, Perry is briefly leaving behind the bus, and his band of traveling reporters, to attend the premiere of The Gift of Life in Des Moines. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum are also expected to appear at the unveiling of the anti-abortion film, co-produced by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
The bus tour revs up again tomorrow in Sioux City, where Perry will attend yet another debate, hosted by Fox News.