Tags: | Rick Perry | Campaign | Iowa | bus | tour

Perry Launches Last-Ditch Comeback Effort in Iowa

By Dan Weil   |   Monday, 19 Dec 2011 12:30 PM

Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry is going all out to revive his presidential bid, Politico reports. The campaign began with a bang in August, and Perry rocketed to the top of the polls. But a series of debate flubs and intemperate statements sent his poll numbers crashing to earth.

So now the Texas governor, who compares himself to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, is hitting the hustings hard in Iowa. He’s hoping to break into the top tier of candidates in the nation’s first caucus/primary Jan. 3. Perry began a 14-day bus tour of the state last week.

An opening has been created. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has now become the fifth candidate to leap to the top of Iowa polls only to fall back down. A new survey from Public Policy Polling shows Texas Rep. Ron Paul on top, with 23 percent, trailed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 20 percent, Gingrich at 14 percent, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 10 percent, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann tied with Perry at 4 percent.

That doesn’t exactly put Perry in the catbird seat. “He has a big hill to climb,” Dave Roerderer, who headed the Iowa campaigns of John McCain in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2000, told Politico. “You only have one opportunity to make a first impression. Visits are appreciated but it’s not going to be the predominant factor. Even on this bus tour, the number of people he’s able to see is limited. But it’s all he has.”

Perry’s hope has to be that Gingrich’s decline – combined with indications from several polls that many voters in Iowa haven’t made up their minds yet – gives him a chance to shine. He has issued a wave of ads to appeal to the key social conservative bloc of voters.

Almost everyone who has finished outside the top three in Iowa’s past caucuses has bitten the dust. “The only person in 30 years to get a fourth ticket out of Iowa was McCain last time,” West Des Moines-based consultant John Stineman told Politico.

But McCain was in a strong position for New Hampshire and purposely gave up on Iowa. Perry isn’t a top contender in any of the early states. He hoped to make South Carolina his firewall, but a recent Winthrop Poll showed him in third place with only 9 percent support, trailing Gingrich with 38 percent and Romney with 22 percent.

Even if a fourth-place spot in Iowa doesn’t spell doom for Perry, he would still have to post a solid win over Bachmann and Santorum – two other conservatives in the basement with him – to clearly join the top tier of candidates.

If Perry ends up near the bottom in Iowa and New Hampshire and stays in the middle in South Carolina, he’s likely toast.

But don’t count him out yet, says Republican operative Tim Albrecht, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s communications director. “I sense a real opportunity for Perry to do well here,” he told Politico.

“Candidate time on the ground is imperative, and Gov. Perry needs to make the deal in person. If he does this, then he has a real shot for a top-three performance on caucus night.”

Perry’s retail campaigning is drawing some to his corner. “I got a different side of the governor, looking him eye-to-eye instead of just at a debate,” Steven Holt, a Denison resident who decided on Perry after hearing him in person last week, told Politico. “Anybody can have a flub or a brain freeze. It can happen to anybody. I just saw beyond that, being able to see him live today.”

But even Perry’s supporters are pessimistic. “I wish he could [win,]” Iowa backer Maurice Conry told Politico. “I don’t feel like he can because he’s got so far to go.”

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