Gov. Rick Perry wrapped up the first leg of his bus tour through Iowa on Thursday, and now he is heading back to Austin for Christmas. When the second leg of the tour begins on Dec. 27, Perry will bring more Texas firepower, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
The last stop Thursday was a town hall in Newton, Iowa, with the employees of a wind turbine blade production plant. Perry's final words to the crowd of roughly 70 people were: “Merry Christmas. Thank you all for coming out. Caucus for me on Jan. 3, and I’ll have your back in D.C.”
Perry spokesman Mark Miner told the Tribune that the campaign felt the first leg had been successful and that there was no need to retool when the governor returns after Christmas.
“He’s great at retail campaigning,” Miner said of Perry, “and that’s what the people of Iowa like. They like to see the candidates and hear them firsthand.”
There will be some new faces in round two. At some point, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is currently running his own race in Texas for U.S. Senate, is expected to join Perry’s tour. A spokesman for Dewhurst’s campaign said that the logistics were still being worked out but that he will come before the caucuses.
For two days along the first leg, Perry was joined by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who proved a crucial asset when he was able to correct Perry in the midst of a stumble over a key provision of his own flat-tax plan at a campaign stop in Maquoketa, Iowa.
A number of Texans — particularly political professionals — are expected to make the trip to Iowa after Christmas to support the governor. In emails to potential volunteers, the campaign has referred to the group as a “strike force.”
Miner acknowledged, “There will be some people who come from Texas to help the campaign, but our goal here is to talk directly to the people of Iowa.”
Natalie Riser, an executive assistant at Austin-based government relations firm Caddo Associates, said she would be among the reinforcements. “It's a unique opportunity for me to support a Texan running for the White House,” she told the Tribune in an in email, noting Perry’s record on job-creation and shrinking the government as points she’d share to Iowans.
Thomas Graham, the founder of Austin-based company Crosswind Communications, said he will also make the trip. A consultant on previous Perry campaigns, Graham said he has known the governor since 1988. “I plan to tell the folks I meet in Iowa that he's a guy that they can count on to make tough decisions about our country's future,” he told the Tribune. “A lot of people are counting him out or kicking him when he's down, but I'm a Texan and Texans stand with their friends.”
In the past week, Perry knocked out 30 stops in 25 cities, spending the better part of an hour at each location — usually at a restaurant or coffee shop — with crowds ranging from about 50 to 150 people.
In his remarks and the subsequent question and answer sessions, Perry consistently hit key points — that he’s a Washington outsider, that he would diminish ties between D.C. and Wall Street and that government regulations need to be pulled back. Occasionally he has underscored his points with props. He’d pull out a blank postcard to represent the simple form that would be needed under his flat tax plan or a Sharpie marker as a stand-in for the veto pen he would wield, striking down any bill with earmarks.
Perry's calls for a part-time Congress and a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution have drawn particularly enthusiastic applause.
In Newton on Thursday afternoon, he told a soldier in the audience that one of his main concerns about President Obama is that “he uses our military as a political tool.”
On the subject of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, the governor said that the U.S. needed to complete the mission — which means, he said, that "we train up the Afghan national forces, the Afghan national army to point where they can protect their citizens."
At an earlier stop in Ottumwa, Iowa, Perry dinged Obama for spending too much time focused on passing a proposed payroll tax cut extension. "His priorities are so messed up," Perry said. "He’s worried about a temporary tax cut when we ought to be talking about freeing entrepreneurs so that they have the confidence that they can create jobs in this country."
Perry told reporters that he was looking forward to Christmas in Austin with his family, and a likely trip to College Station to see his in-laws.
“The crowds have been great, enthusiastic. People are coming to hear the governor, hear about his policies, and they are leaving with a good impression,” Miner said. “We’ll continue with the momentum we built this last week.”