By JON ERICSON
WATERLOO — Some social conservatives are once again shopping for a candidate, fearing Michele Bachmann’s ship has sailed.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is ready to welcome them onto his team, saying Friday in Waterloo they should look at who has a proven track record on social issues.
This week Bachmann, a Waterloo native, saw her Iowa campaign co-chair Kent Sorenson leave the campaign, appearing at an event Wednesday afternoon with her, then going to a Ron Paul event to proclaim he was shifting his support that way.
With Bachmann polling near the bottom of the pack, other candidates, such as Perry, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have looked to gain some momentum with those seeking a more pure conservative alternative to the others.
Perry pointed to Texas passing a constitutional amendment in 2005 to make marriage between one man and one woman. He also challenged the other candidates to top his record on abortion.
“We defunded planned parenthood. Twelve abortion clinics closed down this past fall because we zeroed out their funding from the state. It’s one thing to talk about ‘here’s what I would do.’ It’s another to say this is what I’ve done,” Perry said Friday in an interview with the Courier after speaking at Doughy Joey’s.
Tom Heit of Evansdale came early to get a seat. He started out supporting Bachmann, but believes he will jump ship Tuesday and caucus for Perry or Santorum.
“Most important to me is sticking with the constitution and not ignoring it,” Heit said. “If you stick with the constitution everything will work itself out.”
Jim and Patricia Aten of Waterloo plan to stay with Bachmann and vote for her Tuesday, but think she’s near the end of her campaign and are looking for who they would like to see carry on. Perry is second on their list.
“I’d like to see him win and pick Michele Bachmann as his running mate,” Jim Aten said.
In the most recent Iowa polls, Perry has been running behind the lead pack, in a second tier ahead of Bachmann and close to Gingrich. He’s making a push behind an aggressive television campaign has touted his family values and record of job creation in Texas.
As Santorum has risen in polls, Perry has started attacking Santorum’s record in Congress of securing earmarks for Pennsylvania.
On the stump, he has lumped his opponents together as Washington insiders.
“If we’re going to replace a Democrat insider with the Republican insider, do you think it’s going to change anything in Washington D.C. It’s not,” Perry said.
Perry spoke to a packed house, with more than 75 people crowded into a room and dozens more in overflow seating. The governor spoke for 20 minutes from prepared remarks, then he and his wife, Anita, worked the room, shaking hands and asking for support at Tuesday’s caucuses.