ELKADER – Barnstorming across northeast Iowa, Rick Perry scored points with his campaign for a return to traditional values, smaller government and secure borders.
However, after his “Faith, Jobs and Values” campaign bus rolled on down the road many of the likely Republican caucusgoers who came out to see him Dec. 19 seemed no closer to committing to the Texas governor than before his visits.
“I’m real close,” Jim Smith of Elgin said as he left a town hall meeting at Johnson’s Restaurant in Elkader. He likes Perry’s conservative values, tough approach to border security and promise “to get us back to the Constitution.”
“He’s got a good background for this job and he understands what we’re all about,” added his wife, Ardis.
Video from KCRG-TV9:
Still, even though he picked up a Perry yard sign, Jim Smith would go no further than to say: “I’m leaning toward him,”
Clayton County GOP Chairman Denny Hamann of Garnavillo, who introduced Perry as “America’s jobs governor,” hears a lot of that.
He hasn’t seen a lot of enthusiasm among his fellow Republicans up to this point. That’s starting to change, he said, as the candidates come through the area.
“It seems like we’re just getting started,” he said. In addition to Perry, Michele Bachmann will be in the county Dec. 20 and Ron Paul is passing northeast Iowa Thursday.
“They’re generating some excitement,” Hamann said. “Up to now, there’s been nothing to motivate them.”
At Elkader and later in Manchester, Perry’s audiences seemed most motivated by his call for smaller government and secure borders.
“Why do we need a full-time Congress?” Perry asked. The Texas Legislature meets 140 days every other year and, he said, adding, Texas would be the 13 largest economy in the world if it was an independent nation.
His audience applauded when he suggested members of Congress need to have “real” jobs and live among their constituents under the laws they enact.
Retired hairdresser Rita Clancy of McGregor likes that idea, but is skeptical it would happen.
“Just like term limits, how would you ever get Congress to vote for that?” she said.
At Pizza Ranch in Manchester, Tom Oakleaf of Manchester was skeptical of Perry’s immigration policies, especially allowing the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Texas state colleges.
“If the programs attract illegals, the borders will be porous,” said Oakleaf, who admitted he’s “pretty much for Mitt Romney.”
Clayton Ort of rural Independence is “leaning very much” toward backing Perry. He liked the answer he received to a question about gun rights.
“But I’m not 100 percent. I feel like I can’t make a decision until everything is laid out on the table.” Ohrt said.
That’s why Perry is on a 14-day, 42-city tour of Iowa ahead of the Jan. 3 caucuses, according to spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger.
“Perry is excited to be in Iowa again, where he is traveling across the state to personally meeting with voters, answer their questions,” she said. He’s emphasizing his record because “it’s not about just rhetoric and big ideas, but getting his message to real voters.”
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