Politics & Government

Perry, Cruz show different styles on the stump

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz appear at the 2014 RedState Gathering at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel in Fort Worth on Aug. 8, 2014.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz appear at the 2014 RedState Gathering at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel in Fort Worth on Aug. 8, 2014. The Texas Tribune

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 senator’s team drove through a treacherous snowstorm Sunday in the Granite State.

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, 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 back yard to relieve itself in — are juxtaposed with Scripture and Shakespeare.

“The White House threw a temper tantrum,” he said in Lincoln, referring to 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.’”

One-on-one time

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 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 Barack 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 has been 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.