SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Gov. Rick Perry is not going down without a fight.
He spent his last full day on the campaign trail in Iowa throwing furious punches at his rivals, rallying his Texas “posse” for organizational support and pleading with voters to look past polls showing him in fifth place here.
“Why would you settle for anything other than an authentic conservative … that reflects your values?” Perry said in Sioux City, the first of three stops on the day before the Iowa caucuses.
The combative governor unloaded on his rivals, suggesting they all were tainted either by Washington or Wall Street, Perry’s political axis of evil.
“You don’t have to settle for insiders who have been corrupt from the standpoint of Congress and Washington and Wall Street,” Perry said.
With polls showing Rick Santorum surging ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Perry unleashed on the former Pennsylvania senator.
“One of those insiders is Rick Santorum,” the governor said. “I don’t understand how you can come to Iowa and say I’m a fiscal conservative when you’ve voted eight times to raise the debt limit.”
He said Santorum’s congressional record is littered with pork-barrel projects and accused him of “fleecing America.”
Perry also released a new online ad calling Santorum “unelectable,” and his campaign sent out a news release highlighting a Politico story about the former senator’s history as a consultant.
The governor didn’t stop at Santorum. He also took a slap at Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who has been in first or second place in several recent surveys. Perry described Paul’s foreign policy views as weak and dangerous, saying that if he’s elected, “we will be living in the 1930s.”
Perry remains upbeat despite polls that show him in the ditch in Iowa. He has finally decided to pull the plug on New Hampshire, where his Texas swagger never played well. Instead, he’ll head to South Carolina, which holds the nation’s first southern primary on Jan. 21.
But the governor, who has never lost an election, dismisses talk that he can’t win.
When a voter in Sioux City asked him to articulate a victory scenario when the odds seem so stacked up against him, Perry said he was the only candidate who has both the organizational strength and the “ability to raise the money to go all the way through."
“This is a long election,” he said. “I can assure you that every day that goes by we’re going to get stronger.”
Perry admitted the obvious — that he’s not the best debater. But he said he looked forward to eventually getting on stage with President Obama.
“We will expose him for the fraud that he is every day,” Perry said. “I look forward to that.”
A bevy of Texans are accompanying Perry on his final swing through Iowa. Among them: Texas Sens. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville; Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls; Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; and Reps. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville; Larry Phillips, R-Sherman; and Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst introduced Perry at a private rally-the-troops meeting earlier Monday, and he is planning to speak on Perry’s behalf at one of the 1,774 caucuses being held Tuesday.
“I believe in Rick Perry,” Dewhurst said. “With a strong ground game, I’m optimistic that Gov. Perry will be in the top three. But even if he’s not, if he’s fourth, he’s campaigning in South Carolina. He’ll continue this march.”