CLARINDA, Iowa — Gov. Rick Perry kicked off the second leg of his Iowa tour today in Council Bluffs with a familiar companion: Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The Obama administration issued a report two weeks ago condemning what it called the Maricopa County official's discriminatory practices policing the border in Arizona. Arpaio, who endorsed Perry two months ago, called the move a "sneak attack" and said it was all the more reason to support the Texas governor for president.
"The justice department went after me and took away my authority," he said. "However, we still have state laws, and I know the governor agrees with state laws, so we need him in Washington, please."
Keeping with that topic, Perry made a promise to crowds in both Clarinda and Council Bluffs: Within a year of his presidency, the border would be "shut down and secured."
"There is no such thing as homeland security when there is no border security," he said.
Fresh off a four-day break for Christmas in Austin, Perry spoke at small but packed venues — a diner in Council Bluffs and the Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum in Clarinda. He emphasized his status as an "anti-establishment outsider" and touted his record as the "authentic conservative" in the race.
The governor also renewed his call for a part-time Congress on the heels of an ad on the theme released Monday. While he touted his record securing the border, balancing the state budget and creating jobs in Texas, he also took a jab at the front-runners in the race, saying it would do no good for voters to replace a "Democratic insider with a Republican insider" in Washington.
In Clarinda, he fielded questions from the audiences on Social Security, tax reform, abortion and gay marriage. On both gay marriage and abortion, he said he would support constitutional amendments banning them, but that until they passed, it would be up to individual state to make their own policies.
Members of the audience at each stop said they had yet to make up their minds about which candidates they would support, but that they liked what they saw in Perry.
Jack Schroeder, a gardener who waited for the governor to take the podium in Council Bluffs with a pocket Bible in hand, said it was his first time at a Perry event. He said he liked Perry's "strong personality" and his experience as governor of Texas. After Perry spoke, Schroeder said that while he agreed with Perry's plan to secure the border by building a fence, he wanted more specifics on what that would mean for illegal immigrants already in the country.
Carl Heinrich, a Council Bluffs resident and former president of Iowa Western community college, praised the governor's manner with the crowd as he watched Perry make his way out of the overflowing restaurant.
"He's got a good heart," he said, adding that he thought debate performances carried too much importance in presidential politics. Heinrich, who said his wife supported Rick Santorum, cited jobs and government spending as the most important issues to him.
The governor, who has two more engagements today, will make about 20 stops in the next week, crisscrossing the state to make his final case to Iowans before the Jan. 3 caucuses. He was also not the only candidate to start the day in Council Bluffs: Michele Bachmann held an event at Scooter's, a coffee shop about two and half miles away.