Texas Governor Rick Perry came to Waterloo Sunday, one day after trying to overshadow the Iowa GOP's Ames straw poll with his presidential campaign announcement in South Carolina. He was well-received at the Black Hawk County GOP's Lincoln dinner. Links and highlights from his weekend speeches are after the jump.
UPDATE: Scroll down for news from Perry's appearances around Iowa on Monday.
Perry launched his campaign during the conservative blog RedState's convention in South Carolina. The full text of the speech is on Perry's campaign website, but here's the crux of his case to Republican voters:
You see, as Americans we're not defined by class, and we will never be told our place. What makes our nation exceptional is that anyone, from any background, can climb the highest of heights. As Americans, we don't see the role of government as guaranteeing outcomes, but allowing free men and women to flourish based on their own vision, their hard work and their personal responsibility. And as Americans, we realize there is no taxpayer money that wasn't first earned by the sweat and toil of one of our citizens.
That's why we reject this President's unbridled fixation on taking more money out of the wallets and pocketbooks of American families and employers and giving it to a central government. "Spreading the wealth" punishes success while setting America on course to greater dependency on government. Washington's insatiable desire to spend our children's inheritance on failed "stimulus" plans and other misguided economic theories have given us record debt and left us with far too many unemployed.
But of course, now we're told we are in recovery. Yeah.
But this sure doesn't feel like a recovery to more than nine percent of Americans out there who are unemployed, or the sixteen percent of African Americans and 11 percent of Hispanics in the same position, or the millions more who can only find part-time work, or those who have stopped even looking for a job.
One in six work-eligible Americans cannot find a full-time job. That is not a recovery. That is an economic disaster.
If you think about it, for those Americans who do have full-time jobs, they aren't experiencing economic recovery with the rising fuel costs and the food prices that are going up. Recovery is a meaningless word if the bank has foreclosed on your home, if you are under water on your mortgage, or if you are up to the max on your credit card debt. Those Americans know that this President and his big-spending, big-government policies have prolonged our national misery, not alleviated it. [...]
Listen, we just got to get back to the basic truths of economic success. As Governor, I've had to deal with the consequences of this national recession. In 2003, and again this year, my state faced billions of dollars in budget shortfalls. But we worked hard, we made tough decisions, we balanced our budget. Not by raising taxes, but by setting priorities and cutting government spending. It can and it must be done in Washington, DC.
Dr. Schwertner (State Representative, R-Williamson County, TX), we have led Texas based on some just really pretty simple guiding principles. One is don't spend all of the money. Two is keeping the taxes low and under control. Three is you have your regulatory climate fair and predictable. Four is reform the legal system so frivolous lawsuits don't paralyze employers that are trying to create jobs.
Over the years, we have followed this recipe to produce the strongest economy in the nation. Since June of 2009, Texas is responsible for more than 40 percent of all of the new jobs created in America.
Now think about that. We're home to less than 10 percent of the population in America, but forty percent of all the new jobs were created in that state.
I've cut taxes. I have delivered historic property tax reductions. I was the first governor since World War II to cut general revenue spending in our state budget. We passed lawsuit reform, including just this last session a "loser pays" law to stop the frivolous lawsuits that were happening.
Many writers have cast doubt on the Texas governor's "job creator" credentials, but Perry's going to stick with his story. He hit on the same themes in his speech to Black Hawk County Republicans, adding a few other good sound bites:
"The President has a pen," Perry proclaimed pulling a pen from his pocket. "And it's a veto pen, and I'll use it until the ink runs out if thats what it takes to get the message that we're not spending all the money!"
Perry is an Air Force veteran, the only veteran among the top-tier Republican presidential candidates. (CORRECTION: Representative Ron Paul also served in the Air Force, and his was wartime service.) Perry told his Waterloo audience, "One of the reasons that I'm running for president is I want to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of the United States respects highly the president of the United States."
Perry also arrived early for the Lincoln dinner and spent about an hour working the room from table to table. Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican blog had a bit of a temper tantrum over the timing of Perry's presidential campaign announcement, and Representative Steve King also grumbled about Perry trying to take the spotlight away from the Ames straw poll. But few Iowa Republicans are going to hold a grudge over that snub once Perry digs into retail politics here. Perry told reporters yesterday that he'll be spending a lot of time in Iowa before the caucuses. Iowans should appreciate the attention, since former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is mostly passing us over.
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and Representative Michele Bachmann also spoke at last night's GOP's event in Waterloo. Santorum played the underdog card well:
"We're not a big bus or jet campaign, we're a scooter campaign," Santorum said, likening his efforts in Iowa to the 'little engine that could'. "We're just going to keep pushing forward."
Santorum didn't bring it up last night, but he has criticized Perry for saying he was "fine" with marriage equality in New York, since marriage is a state issue.
"I have always been extremely proud of being a social conservative, and we need to have social conservatives in our tent and not kick them out," Bachmann said. "Without social conservatives will be very difficult to defeat Barack Obama in 2012."
However, the Lincoln dinner wasn't Bachmann's best Iowa performance, according to Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin:
Bachmann campaigned like a celebrity. And the event highlighted the brittle, presidential-style cocoon that has become her campaign's signature: a routine of late entries, unexplained absences, quick exits, sharp-elbowed handlers with matching lapel pins, and pre-selected questioners.
She camped out in her bus, parked on the street in front of a nearby Ramada Hotel, until it was time to take the stage. Even after a local official's introduction, Bachmann was nowhere to be found. It was not until a second staffer assured her that the lighting had been changed and a second introduction piped over the loudspeakers that she entered the former dance hall here. By the time she made her big entrance to bright lights and blaring music, the crowd seemed puzzled.
Bachmann's stump speech drew mostly polite applause until she closed by giving a large apple pie to "the oldest mother in the room" - a local centenarian.
Then she stayed on stage, signing T-shirts from above, which her staff then distributed to a steady but not overwhelming crowd.
Finally, she swept through what was by then an empty ballroom behind a phalanx of six aides who shielded her from reporters and the handful of Iowans who remained.
"She kept us waiting, she was not here mixing - then she was talking about what great evening it was. How do you know? You just got here," said Karen Vanderkrol, of Hudson, Iowa, who said she agreed with the substance of Bachmann's speech, but that one line in particular had rung false: "I am a real person."
"She can say she's real and part of the people, but that's not what we do," Vanderkrol said of the congresswoman's behavior.
Any comments about the Republican presidential race are welcome in this thread. If you're looking for background on Perry, who has been governor for nearly 11 years, the archives of Texas Monthly magazine are a great resource.
UPDATE: Perry made the obligatory Iowa State Fair visit on August 15. Click here for the video of his speech on the Des Moines Register's soapbox, or click here to listen to the audio. He promised to be a "pro-business" president (as if we don't have one already!) and advocated lower taxes and fewer "stifling" regulations on small businesses. I'll bet small business types won't be bankrolling the Perry campaign or super-PACs.
I give Perry props for the most creative pander to the gun crowd I've heard in a long time:
"Second amendment allows me to go jogging with my daughter's dog and if a coyote jumps out I can take care of it."
While at the fair, Perry was a guest on WHO radio, Iowa's largest conservative talk radio station. He took some questions from reporters too and "hedged" when asked whether he still believes "Social Security should be replaced with state-based benefit programs." Perry explained that he is "having a conversation with the country about how we find some solutions [for Social Security]... Having the states doing it is one of the ways." Commenting on energy policy, Perry "said that ethanol is a 'mature industry' and should be weaned off subsidies in favor of the sort of 'tax incentives' offered the oil industry."
In case you were wondering, Perry downplays similarities between himself and George W. Bush:
"I am Rick Perry and he is George Bush," Perry declared as he marched through the Iowa State Fair, surrounded by reporters. "And our records are quite different."
Asked what the biggest difference is, Perry responded: "I went to Texas A&M. He went to Yale."
He did not answer when pressed to name a policy difference.
After leaving Des Moines, Perry drew a large crowd at Iowa City's legendary Hamburg Inn on Monday afternoon. He didn't give a speech or take questions from the media at that event. This being Iowa City, plenty of anti-Perry people turned up too.
Talking with Iowans, Perry repeatedly mentioned his meeting with Governor Terry Branstad on August 15. Branstad's clearly overjoyed to see the Texas governor in the race and paying attention to Iowa:
The governor said Iowans could look past the decision by Romney and Perry to skip the Ames Straw Poll, which is a key fundraiser and energy-builder for the state party, if they actively campaign in Iowa between now and the Feb. 6 caucuses. [...] Branstad praised Perry for doing things correctly in Iowa so far, such as at a county GOP fundraiser Sunday night in Waterloo where he worked the room, met with people and answered their questions. He said Romney must do the same.
"I'm encouraging Mitt Romney to get here and actively campaign," Branstad said. "It's important as the national front-runner for him to actively campaign in Iowa. This is where it all starts. This is where we launched Obama, but I think we could launch his successor, as well. I certainly want to do all I can to try to help that happen."
Branstad has previously touted Perry's economic development record. I wonder what he thinks about Perry's budget cuts to education, given that Texas already ranks near the bottom on various measures of school and student performance.
Perry's last public appearance on Monday was a meet and greet in Cedar Rapids. He may end up walking back his explosive comments about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at that venue.
"If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y'all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion."
Not feeling the presidential vibe there. Reasonable minds can differ on monetary policy. I doubt printing more money would do anything for the economy now, but doing so wouldn't be anything like treason.
Perry has scheduled appearances in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Walcott (Muscatine and Scott Counties) on August 16.
SECOND UPDATE: During his soapbox speech, Perry lambasted a supposedly "obscene" and "crazy" federal regulation requiring farmers to get commercial driver's licenses in order to drive their tractors across the road. Turns out he was just plain wrong:
"We are absolutely not requiring farmers" to obtain commercial licenses, such as those required of semitrailer operators, said U.S. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Candice Tolliver in Washington, D.C.
She said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had put out a statement last week making the DOT's position clear. [...]
Perry said that he had talked on Sunday with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley at a GOP dinner in Waterloo. Perry told Grassley he had heard in the past two days that the federal government was going to put such a rule in place.
"Your own United States senator, sitting there at the table, said, 'That's right.' And I said, 'What were they thinking, senator?' And he said, 'They weren't.' So that is the issue at hand here," Perry said.
Asked by the Register on Monday evening about what DOT officials had said, Perry asked, "Was this Snopes.com?" referring to the myth-busting website. "Is that where we look this one up?"
Perry repeated that he had talked about it with Grassley, who agreed it didn't make sense. "Senator Grassley, when I asked him about it last night - I've got to go with your senior senator," he said.
His staff, checking their BlackBerrys, said it might be a recent development that federal transportation officials dropped the idea.
Federal officials earlier Monday said there was never an issue.
I wouldn't make a federal case out of this misstep, but Perry's staff needs to do more fact-checking going forward.