COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- Asking Iowa voters for a “second look,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicked off a bus tour of the state here on Wednesday with two distinct messages: I’m an anti-Washington, anti-Wall Street outsider, and I share your values.
Perry will campaign across the state from now until the Iowa caucuses, seeking to rebuild his mostly single-digit standing in polls. Each day, he will make between two and five stops to talk to the people of the state -- one of Perry’s strongest skills as a campaigner.
He is traveling across Iowa in a bus bearing his “Perry for President” logo and the motto “Faith, Jobs and Freedom.”
“I'm a conservative fighter,” Perry told a crowd of about 75 people gathered for a standing-room-only event in Council Bluffs. “I will get up and fight every day, and I am a Washington outsider.”
Part of Perry’s strategy involves painting his fellow candidates as unable to change Washington because of their past connections.
“We have a Washington insider in practically every one of those whose name was either congressman or former congressman. We have a Wall Streeter in the case of Mitt Romney, and I’m the only person standing on that stage who is an outsider,” Perry said at a campaign stop in Denison, Iowa later that day.
Perry also brought a surrogate on the campaign trail, Capt. Dan Moran, a wounded Iraq war veteran who offered a passionate defense of Perry’s record. Moran said he was able to start a small business in Texas to employ veterans, in part because of the business climate Perry created.
“If I’ve got to go knock on every door in the entire union to tell my fellow Americans how important it is that we elect Rick Perry to the presidency of the United States, that’s what I’ll do,” Moran said, choking up.
In a sign that he will not back away from controversial ads promoting his Christian faith, Perry signaled that he will work to connect with evangelical voters across the state, a powerful voting bloc in the caucuses.
“I happen to believe America is ready for a president with the values that Iowans share,” Perry said.
He is running hard against President Obama, calling him an “abject failure” on both domestic and foreign policy fronts. In Denison, Perry lambasted the president for his hands-off approach to the super committee negotiations and suggested he had surrounded himself with bad foreign policy advisors.
At least initially, the approach seems to appeal to voters. In both of Perry’s sit-down events Wednesday, there were voters standing to hear him, and he received plenty of applause.
Elizabeth Escalante, a missionary living in the Dominican Republic who is registered to vote in Iowa, said her impression of Perry at the Denison event was much more positive than anything she had seen on TV. Though she is leaning toward voting for Perry or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, she said Perry’s values are important to her.
“I believe in forgiveness,” Escalante said, but “the greatest example of what we truly believe is in how we live,” she said, referencing Gingrich’s past marital infidelity.