Today is the last day of Gov. Rick Perry's pre-Christmas Iowa bus tour. Perry will return Friday to Texas for a brief Christmas break, then it's back to campaigning.
The Perry campaign has called the bus tour a chance for Iowans to give the Texas governor a second look. As the tour progressed, Perry refined his message and appeared to excite crowds, and by Wednesday afternoon he had assumed the role of a political outsider, which he used at each campaign stop.
Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News
“We need someone who will walk in who has the discipline, who has the courage to break up that old system — an outsider," Perry told a crowd in Muscatine. "And I want to make this pact with you as I wrap up. I’ll have your back in Washington, D.C., for the next four years. God bless you and thank you for coming out here today."
Bob Wise came from Iowa City to hear Perry in Muscatine. He says he came to the event undecided but left a Perry supporter.
“He’s human, puts his pants on one leg at a time," Wise said. "He’s not Washington, he’s Texas. And he talks the truth, he talks it straight. So if the American people will wake up and listen to that, rather than all the promises that we’ve been getting politically and not had fulfilled, then why not?”
Perry’s drop in the polls and the reason for his second-chance bus tour can be traced back to early debate stumbles. But many of the caucus-goers who turned out during the tour didn't think those mistakes would keep voters from supporting him.
“If somebody is going to pick that apart, they need to get a life," said Margi Mountz of Mount Pleasant.
"You better believe it," said George Wheat, also from Mount Pleasant. "That’s what I’ve said from day one."
Recent polls have been mixed for Perry. One had him in third place, though most place him in fourth — close to former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann. Many pundits believe only one of the three will leave Iowa a viable presidential candidate.