By Bret Hayworth, Sioux City Journal
SIOUX CITY — Making a late pitch for Iowans to caucus for him, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said the 2012 race is in mile one of a marathon.
Some candidates could drop out after a poor Tuesday caucus performance, but Perry said he will be a formidable fundraiser and plans to be a candidate well into the year.
“We’ll see who’s still standing,” he told a crowd of 250 Monday at Stoney Creek Inn, where spectators spilled into the entryway of the tight venue.
“If you have my back tomorrow at the caucuses, I will have your back for the next four years in Washington, D.C.,” Perry said.
In his return to Northwest Iowa for the first time since Dec. 16, Perry continued many recent campaign themes — that he’s an “authentic” conservative and no Washington insider, and that if Congress remains unproductive he’d make the federal legislators only part-time workers and reduce their pay.
Asked how the latter plan could be accomplished, since it is doubtful congressional members would reduce their role, Perry answered he would pursue a constitutional amendment.
His final comment of the 35-minute event: “If you want a bumper sticker on what I am all about, it is freedom.”
Veronica Krage of rural Sioux City has been taking in the late flurry of Northwest Iowa presidential campaign stops. Krage has seen Mitt Romney twice and attended a Ron Paul event. She will help stage a Plymouth County caucus precinct and said she was leaning toward Romney.
“Perry has some good ideas,” Krage said, citing his position of securing the Mexican border and pushing to repeal “ObamaCare,” as opponents call federal health care reform.
Ron Coon of Sioux City has narrowed his options to Perry and Newt Gingrich.
“I’m an ultraconservative,” Coon said. “I watch Fox (News) all day long, until the night.”
Coon said he wished Perry had begun his campaign sooner than his relatively late entrance in mid-August. And he said if it weren’t for debate gaffes, Perry would be polling higher than he is, near the bottom.
Perry uttered his now-famous, “Sorry. Oops,” During a Nov. 9 debate when he could not recall one of three federal agencies he would eliminate as president.
“I like Texans, and if he hadn’t made that initial gaffe … he’d be in a lot higher standing than he is right now,” Coon said.
Perry took verbal shots at fellow Republicans Rick Santorum, who has enjoyed a late December polling rise, and Ron Paul, who is with Santorum in the top tier of Iowa polls. Perry criticized Santorum for voting eight times in the U.S. Senate to raise the U.S. debt limit and for Paul’s quest to reduce the U.S. military presence overseas by drawing down troops.
“We’ll be living in the 1930s again,” Perry said of Paul’s military stance. “That is a dangerous position.”