DES MOINES — After the last two scheduled stops of his tour today, Gov. Rick Perry made an impromptu visit to a local precinct leader and knocked on a few doors in a West Des Moines neighborhood.
Accompanied a gaggle of reporters, Perry signed autographs and met several neighbors who came out of their houses to shake his hand. At one point, he called for an aide to bring a map of Texas from the bus so he could point out Paint Creek, describing how he "literally" helped put it on the map as governor.
"I appoint the commissioners there, so I said how about putting Paint Creek on the map," he said.
During earlier appearances today in Boone and Dodge City, where he was greeted by large crowds and an increasing media presence, Perry took the opportunity into hammer home his "anti-establishment outsider" message of limited government.
He emphasized his differences with the other GOP candidates, saying that while many of them were campaigning on bills they proposed that never made it to the president's desk, he has a record of policy that he had "signed into law" in his home state.
Rick Santorum, who has enjoyed a surge in Iowa, continued to be his main target. He slammed the former Pennsylvania senator for earmarks and his votes to increase the debt ceiling while in Congress.
"Senator, what is so important that compelled you to add greater debt to our children's card?" he asked at both stops.
Though Perry's support has crept up in the most recent polls, he is still in fourth place, trailing Santorum. He has blasted the state with a massive ad campaign, spending a total of $2.86 million in December. An indication of whether that investment has made a dent may come tonight with the results of the highly anticipated Des Moines Register poll, which will be released at 7 pm CT.
Perry did not talk to reporters about this morning's Politico story, which described turmoil and infighting among his staff, quoting anonymous inside sources on the campaign's disorganization during its initial stages.
At the first stop of the day in Dodge City, Anita Perry — who with their two children has accompanied the governor on the trail since yesterday — got her first question from the audience.
“We’ve got so much work to get there that I’m not measuring the drapes,” she said. “But it would be truly be an honor and a pleasure for me to be in that role.”
She said that, because of her background as a nurse, she would like to focus on healthcare issues as the nation's first lady, as well as those affecting veterans. In Texas, she has worked for causes that work to prevent violence against women.
The governor, who will be spending New Year's in Des Moines, was asked if he would advocate to limit exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape or incest in Texas if he did not become president.
"I'm not planning on being governor of Texas next year," he said, adding that he would continue to speak out on the issue.
During an on-camera interview with a local ABC reporter during the block walk, Perry also said he was aiming to come in first in the caucuses on Tuesday.
The Perry campaign has scheduled three events in Aiken County, South Carolina, for the next day.