BARRINGTON, N.H. — When it comes to the weather on the campaign trail here, it would be easy to compare Texans Rick Perry and Ted Cruz to fish out of water. Except there is no water in New Hampshire these days — only ice.
On Thursday and Friday, the former governor took on subzero temperatures to work the state’s northern regions, while the U.S. senator’s team drove through a treacherous snowstorm in his Granite State travels on Sunday.
The message to Republican voters in New Hampshire: The likely presidential candidates are determined to brave the elements to win this state’s primary next year, though they are taking different paths. While Cruz’s aim is to gin up Tea Party enthusiasm, Perry has been courting voters at small gatherings.
Because serious Republican candidates aren’t expected to have a shortage of funds to keep a campaign afloat past the Iowa caucuses, it’s not altogether unreasonable to expect the New Hampshire field to have 10 well-funded candidates. As a result, neither Perry, Cruz nor any other contender would have to post a huge percentage to win the state.
In appearances over the last week in New Hampshire, Cruz and Perry were on the charm offensive.
On the stump, Cruz is developing a reputation as a humorist. It's a stark contrast to his image as a Senate floor provocateur.
On Sunday afternoon in Barrington and Lincoln, Cruz told charming stories about his two young daughters, often quoting 6-year-old Caroline, a child he jokingly describes as a “rascal.”
Tales of Caroline’s political commentary — she says that if her dad were to win a presidential election, their dog would finally get a backyard to relieve itself in — are juxtaposed with Scripture and Shakespeare.
"The White House threw a temper tantrum," he said in Lincoln of the president's reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent address to Congress. "The president refused to meet the prime minister. In fact, the president said he didn't even watch the speech."
"I've got to say, Heidi and I have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. I'm kind of familiar with the strategy of 'I can't hear you!'" he added.
A minute later, he was quoting Hamlet.
On the controversial letter he and 46 other Republican senators wrote to the leader of Iran, Cruz said in Lincoln that "the hysterical reaction from the president and Democrats invokes the words of Shakespeare — 'Methinks she doth protest too much.'"
Besides Obama, his jokes target a cast of federal government characters, including Attorney General Eric Holder, former IRS official Lois Lerner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"Ready for Hillary has now announced their new director of email security," Cruz said Sunday night in Lincoln. "Lois Lerner now has a job."
Lerner's office emails were thought to be lost while the former IRS official was under fire from conservative groups.
And the speeches were resonating with plenty in the audience.
“I thought he was so genuine and so inspirational and so brilliant. Plus, he’s a bit of a comedian, which helps,” June Pinkham, a registered independent and accountant, said on Sunday after Cruz's Barrington event.
Perry’s New Hampshire appearances have included less humor but a lot of one-on-one interaction. He often calls crowd members by the first names on their name tags, and he holds direct eye contact with someone in the crowd.
In a Belmont gun shop on Friday night, he excitedly used his iPhone to show off a new piece of firearms merchandise to a potential supporter.
Both Perry and Cruz frequently criticize President Obama and compare him to former President Jimmy Carter. But beyond that, the tone diverges.
Cruz goes for the jugular, repeatedly depicting Obama as "the most lawless president this country has ever seen."
Perry’s just as critical of Obama, but his criticism hasn't been as harsh.
The Perry style here has been to describe an Obama policy he views as problematic and then offer his remedy. His harshest means of criticism of the president comes in the form of an eye-roll.
Perry's method — chasing down practically every voter in the state in small, personal settings — is a proven method that launched Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to the 2008 GOP nomination.
There is no clear precedent for the Cruz grassroots strategy, but there is logic to it.
In 2011, there was a strong enough band of Tea Party activists in the state that they were able to take over the state party. Their stay in power did not last long. But their rise showed that if Cruz could channel that energy against a crowded field, it might be enough to help him win or place well enough to push on to other primary states.
But he’s not just speaking to the grassroots.
On Monday morning, Cruz shelved the punches and delivered an economic policy lecture to Republican business leaders at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.
The speech was well-received by the audience – which was not dominated by Tea Party activists who are regulars at other addresses.
“I thought he made some very good points,” said Joanne Casino, a health insurance company employee who identified herself as a Democrat. “I like his focus on domestic economics.”
The fact that Cruz tailored his remarks to the audience indicated he learned a lesson last week from a speech to a firefighters union in Washington, where a joke about Clinton drew grumbles.
If there’s anyone who knows about learning from the past, it’s Perry.
He is the first to concede he ran a terrible campaign in 2011, and he insists he is a better contender this time, relying on his strength of retail politics. Perry has been tireless on the stump, making at least nine campaign stops during his two days last week in New Hampshire.
Does one method work better than the other?
New Hampshire political insiders say any candidate needs to maintain a healthy balance between the motivating speech and adept retail politicking.
Robert Jursik, a Republican voter who had attended recent Perry and Cruz events, saw distinct differences and advantages for each candidate.
After the excitement of a Cruz rally in Barrington died down, Jursik offered his perspective on the contrast in energy and presentations.
“I think here what you’re seeing is a lot of Tea Party electricity,” he said of the people attending. “[These are] people who saw Ted on TV and feel a connection to him personally.”
“They may not feel the same connection with Perry, but I think you have to respect the resume,” he said. “With Rick Perry, you’re talking resume.”