Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has been receiving rave reviews of his campaign appearances during his second try for the White House, and it wasn’t hard to see why at a West Des Moines event last night. Perry passed on standing behind the podium, instead walking among the crowd and getting up close to audience members. He was emphatic with his points and lively with his gestures, keeping the crowd engaged with his speech.
It’s a sharp contrast to the stiff performances he put in during his ill-fated 2012 run, when issues with his back hindered his campaigning abilities. He led the 2012 pack but for a short month, before he “oops”-ed his way out of serious contention with an embarrassing debate outing.
Attendees at the event noticed and appreciated the change. “I usually don’t see him quite as hyped up and moving as much,” said Jeremy Freeman, who attends many Republican candidate events. “It’s pretty standard stump by him, very good, very substantive, but I was kind of thrown off by how in-your-face he was to that front row … There’s the Perry that people see on TV and there’s the Perry you see when you’re in an event like this. At events like this you see he’s actually one of the most charming individuals you’ll ever meet.”
“He’s definitely a lot more polished this cycle than last,” agreed John Thompson, another Republican attendee. “I think he got a lot more tongue-tied last time, he was trying to figure out his message … I think he’s figuring out what kind of red meat sells here and he’s getting better at showing it. Now the good Rick Perry is coming out.”
“I’m optimistic about the future,” Perry stressed repeatedly, arguing that the country was only a few choices and new leadership away from a major economic boom. The optimism matched his upbeat tone, and differs significantly from the near-apocalyptic visions of America that other Republicans, like Ted Cruz, portray in their speeches. He also encouraged outreach to blue-collar voters, saying, “We need to be sharing a narrative with them – if they want to see their wages increase, there’s a political party they need to be supporting: the Republican Party.”
Perry was very effective in extolling the victories he feels he achieved as Governor of Texas. However, in this writer’s opinion at least, there were limitations to Perry’s focus. He spoke so much of states’ rights and Texas accomplishments that I didn’t come away with a good sense of what he’d do as President. He came close to sounding like he was making the case to be re-elected governor rather than to be sent to the White House.
“Let the states deliver healthcare, they’ll come up with all different ways,” Perry said of Obamacare. OK, so he’s another who wants to repeal it of course, but is there any vision after that? Or would Perry just get to the White House, kick his boots up on the desk, and say “alright states, you go figure it out.” Republicans obviously love states’ rights talk, but too much of it can rob you of an overall platform of proposals for supporters to rally around.
At a press conference afterwards, Perry didn’t throw his new staffer, Jamie Johnson, a long-time Iowa Republican insider, under the bus when asked about a private email Johnson had sent years ago questioning whether the country should have a female president. It was a sharp contrast to Scott Walker, who earlier this week fired his newly-hired digital strategist, Liz Mair, after her past insensitive Tweets were quickly shared around political circles. One wonders if there’s a difference in morale between the staff for the two White House hopefuls.
A number of elected officials were on hand at the Dallas County GOP event, including State Auditor Mary Moisman and State Senators Tim Kapuican, David Johnson and Charles Schneider. Perry’s visit was the second in a line of Dallas County Republicans speakers series. Last month, Chris Christie spoke to the county party. Next up is Rick Santorum, and Carly Fiorina after that. The events are held in the Marriott Hotel in West Des Moines off Jordan Creek Parkway.
by Pat Rynard