Rick Perry pushes for a surprise in tonight's Iowa caucuses

Posted Monday, Jan. 02, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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PERRY, Iowa -- Fortified by legions of reinforcements from Texas, Gov. Rick Perry spent Monday, the final day before the Iowa caucuses, seeking to build a last-minute surge and vowing to prove the pollsters wrong.

He symbolically wound up his caucus-eve swing in the small central Iowa town of Perry, where Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sam Brownback of Kansas touted his candidacy before an enthusiastic crowd of about 200.

"Are you better off than you were $4 trillion ago?" Perry asked as he assailed the Obama presidency and presented himself as an anti-establishment outsider and the true conservative in the Republican presidential race.

Perry earlier lashed out at the other Texan in the GOP field -- Rep. Ron Paul of Lake Jackson -- warning that the former Libertarian's foreign-policy views could endanger the United States and bring a return to isolationism.

"And let me tell you, when Ron Paul is further to the left on foreign policy than Barack Obama, that ought to tell you something," Perry told an audience in Sioux City. "That is a dangerous situation in the world to have a president that will put America in that position."

As he neared the finish of a three-week bus tour, Perry, 61, was upbeat and energized and seemed oblivious to two recent polls showing him in fifth place.

Perry -- whose undefeated election streak is on the line today -- said he was just beginning a long campaign marathon and has the money and national organization to go the distance.

"This is a long election," Perry said. "This is the first, let's say, mile one of a marathon and I've run marathons before. ... I finished my marathon and I expect to finish this marathon as well."

In its final pre-caucus poll, The Des Moines Register reported Saturday that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney led with 24 percent, followed by Paul at 22 percent. Rick Santorum continued his surge with 15 percent, Newt Gingrich had 12 percent and Perry, 11 percent.

A more recent poll by Public Policy Polling showed Paul in the lead, with 20 percent. Romney had 19 percent; Santorum, 18 percent; Gingrich, 14 percent; Perry, 10 percent; and Rep. Michele Bachmann, 8 percent.

The 'third ticket'

Perry is hoping for at least third place, which would be largely portrayed as a comeback and provide a burst of new momentum. With Romney and Paul dominating the top of the field, Perry has sought to prevail against Gingrich, Santorum and Bachmann for the "third ticket out of Iowa."

All four lower-tier candidates have focused heavily on social conservatives who make up at least half of Iowa's potential caucusgoers, who are expected to number well over 100,000.

Perry has sought to portray the other contenders as Washington insiders who have contributed to the country's economic problems. Gingrich is a former U.S. House speaker, Santorum is a former Pennsylvania senator and Bachmann is a congresswoman from Minnesota.

As he swept through three towns in the final day of campaigning, Perry was accompanied by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, publisher and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes and former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Also by his side were his wife, daughter, son and daughter-in-law.

Nearly 15 Republicans from the Texas Legislature were also in the state, and Comptroller Susan Combs was onstage at Perry's last stop in Perry.

Several hundred Texans, many of them grassroots volunteers, poured into the state as well.

Dewhurst and other surrogates echoed Perry's suggestion that he may pull off a surprise tonight. "I'm optimistic that he'll do well [in Iowa] and he'll do well in further contests," said Dewhurst, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

"This is absolutely doable," said state Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson, R-Waco. "I have confidence we can turn this around."

Perry unleashed some of his sharpest attacks on Paul during a question-and-answer session in Sioux City. Paul has opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying it is wrong for the United States to be involved in costly and intrusive entanglements abroad, and denounces sanctions against Iran as "an act of war."

"As best I can tell," Perry said, "if Ron Paul becomes president of the United States, he will bring all of our troops back home, he'll bring the 5th Fleet back out of the Persian Gulf, and we will be living in the 1930s again.

"The record's pretty lengthy on his remarks, basically saying that America has brought this on itself by meddling around in other countries' business. I greatly disagree with that."

Perry also continued his effort to blunt Santorum's late show of strength by again accusing him of contributing to the federal budget deficit and supporting costly earmarks -- federal spending that members of Congress snare for projects in their states or districts.

"You've got to ask yourself, if we replace a Democrat insider with a Republican insider, you think Washington, D.C., is going to change any?" Perry said.

Responding to a question, Perry expressed optimism that he can win the nomination and eventually meet Obama in a debate.

"And let me tell you, I can't wait for that day to happen," Perry said. "We will take it to him every day about how he has put our children's future in jeopardy, how he has put Americans' future in jeopardy."

Dave Montgomery,


Twitter: @daveymontgomery

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