Waterloo, Iowa (CNN) - A small town Republican fundraising dinner in eastern Iowa was transformed into a full-fledged presidential cattle call on Sunday, with three deeply conservative candidates making their campaign pitches to party activists.
The event, a Lincoln Day Dinner benefiting the Black Hawk County GOP, came as the Republican campaign entered a new phase following the departure of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty from the race.
All eyes at the dinner, held at the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, were fiercely trained on the two candidates who plan to lay claim to Iowa in the coming months: Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Perry was making his Hawkeye State debut one day after formally entering the race and aiming to live up to the hype surrounding his newfound candidacy.
Bachmann, the Iowa frontrunner, came to Waterloo riding high following her victory Saturday in the Ames Straw Poll.
After sidelining Pawlenty, once her chief rival in the state, Bachmann was out to prove that she can maintain her lead in the face of a fresh challenge from a deep-pocketed foe with a similar appeal to evangelical Christians and tea party activists.
It seemed clear that Perry would present a more difficult test than Pawlenty.
Donning a perfectly-cut suit and hard-to-miss Lone Star cufflinks, the imposing Texan paced the stage with a confident ease and moved quickly to establish a favorable storyline: That he is a full spectrum conservative with an unimpeachable record of job creation who can defeat President Barack Obama in 2012.
“We may have issues that separate us, but bringing those diverse groups together and making sure we have a candidate who can beat Obama in November is the most important thing we can do,” he told the audience, who paid rapt attention to the newly minted candidate. “And it's got to be someone that understands, that knows how, who has had job creation experience in their background.”
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who led off the trio of candidates on the speaking schedule and has spent more time in Iowa than any candidate in the field, stood off to the side as Perry spoke, carefully evaluating his new rival.
Bachmann, meanwhile, arrived late to her speech but promptly went about hitting the notes that have propelled her to the top of the polls in Iowa.
“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.”
She emphasized over and over again that she was born in Waterloo and spent there early years of her life here.
Perry took it all in, sitting smack in the middle of the audience in front of the stage, sipping water as she spoke.
After the speech, Bachmann spoke to reporters but dodged questions about how a three-term member of Congress can stack up against two Republicans with executive experience - Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the national frontrunner - on the matter of creating jobs in a difficult economy.
“We welcome Gov. Perry to the race,” said Bachmann, who said she had “not yet” spoken to Perry about his entrance into the race.
It was clear what storyline Bachmann preferred to discuss. She repeatedly hoisted up for the cameras the front page of the Waterloo Courier, which reported on her straw poll win.
While Bachmann was late to the event and rarely left her cocoon of advisers and bodyguards, Perry arrived a full hour before the program and jumped right into campaign mode, moving from table to table introducing himself to audience members one-by-one and, in a few cases, offering hugs and planting kisses on the cheeks of some women. He was mobbed by reporters and cameras as he tried to navigate the crowd.
He sat down at a table with a local couple, Jim and Cecelia Mudd, who expressed their frustration with the president’s handling of the economy. Perry agreed.
“We have just gone through a three-year experiment with the American economy that has gone tragically bad,” he said. “There are a lot of independents and even some Democrats who are going to take a look at the options here. There was interesting clarion call of hope and change that people went for, and it has been a disaster economically, and frankly foreign policy-wise too.”
As he moved through the room, he declined to answer most of the questions tossed at him from a brigade of political reporters eager for their first glimpse of candidate Perry.
He did stop to tell one reporter about his natural appeal to Iowa voters, thanks to his understanding of rural values. Perry was raised in the small farming town of Paint Creek, Texas.
“Across the 50 states, each state is going to be different, but from the standpoint of campaigning here in Iowa, I would put it probably not too unlike campaigning for Agriculture Commissioner in Texas back in 1990,” he said. “Going to a lot of small towns, going to a lot of picnics, going to a lot of fairs. We will spend a lot of time in Iowa. These people are a lot like the folks I grew up with. Most of them are agriculturally-oriented, small town folks. We are going to have a good time getting to know them better.”
Bachmann’s campaign manager Ed Rollins, lingering quietly on the periphery, called Perry “a formidable person.”
“We look forward to doing battle with him,” Rollins told CNN. “I think the critical thing is, as he gets into the debates, we’ll see what he’s like. He has a good stump speech. He’s got all the right lines.”
Perry plans to spend three days traveling through five cities across the state meeting the Republicans who will participate in the caucuses early next year. He announced his campaign in South Carolina, which holds the first southern primary in the nomination fight, and he visited the leadoff primary state of New Hampshire on Saturday.
Ray Sullivan, one of Perry’s senior-most advisers, said the governor planned to introduce himself to Iowans before “drawing contrasts” with other Republicans who have been in the race for much longer.
"We don’t plan on quickly engaging the Republicans in the race,” he said. “We have to have the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina get to know him.”
But Sullivan cautioned that if attacked by Romney or Bachmann or Santorum, “we will certainly vigorously and aggressively defend the governor’s record and vision.”
Today's Republican party is a real embarrassment to our country. The leaders have no credentials other than religious fanaticism, while any candidate with actual economic or leadership skill get pushed to the back. I'm afraid the GOP has become a full-blown, radicalized theocratic party, and what they have planned for this country isn't very far removed from what the Taliban did in Afghanistan. No way would I ever even consider voting for that. No thanks. If the GOP wants to be taken seriously, their constitutents need to prove that they value something other than just religious beliefs... because those are a personal thing that should have nothing to do with governance, anyway. I'll worry about religious credentials when I'm deciding on a clergyman, not a president.
No they aren't. The media is fabricating this fight between them. Perry is a nobody, a liberal really. If you want to know who to vote for here is a hint, it's NO ONE THE MEDIA IS SUPPORTING! They are just playing people like there is some great competition when it is them and their elitists that fabricate dog and pony shows to make you think there is a good election going on. The truth is, the candidates the media ignores or makes fun of are the ones that have the peoples best interest at heart.
Texas has more minimum wage jobs than any other state in the union – and fewer jobs that pay worth anything. Yep...Perry made Texas the most regulated state (you need a license for nearly anything), worst educated, and lowest paying with the least help for those on minimum wage. Just what the country needs...
ABC News: "Bachmann Says Her Appeal Goes Beyond Iowa." There's no question this statement is TRUE – her appeal is surely global in scope. Without a doubt, the Talaban, al Qaeda, Norway's Anders Behring Breivik and other fundamentalist religious extremists fully share her view that religious-political dogma, devoid of spirituality and compassion, should tyrannically dictate how ALL people MUST live and these fundamentalist religious extremists should take control of their governments in order to ruthlessly enforce that decree (Theocracy is Good philosophy). This global appeal, which Bachmann and Perry surely have, resonates with the Talaban, al Qaeda, Norway's Anders Behring Breivik and other fundamentalist religious extremists in another way as well. They all believe that "the ends justify the means" when it comes to the self-righteous, sanctimonious, 'holier than thou' sacred mission God has chosen THEM to accomplish. It's all part of God's "tough love" plan and his edict to get the masses in line or else. No doubt about it – religious fanatical, extremist, self-righteous, right-wing political dogma definitely has global appeal that goes well beyond Iowa.
LET'S GET READY TO RUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMBLE......this is a real BATTLE of the LOSERS, but, of course any one of the GOP'ers would fit into that category ;)
Bachmann has done only one thing legislatively since she's been in office – sponsor a bill to overturn the bill signed by Bush concerning light bulbs (funny since she's so dim herself). The irony here is that she's for smaller government, yet she thinks that government should be in your bedroom and in your womb, but not in your lamps – go figure!
I think the GOP is getting in deeper and deeper. I vote independently–meaning that I vote for the person I feel has the interests of this country and the American people most at heart, not strictly by party lines. For me, that's Barack Obama. There isn't a single Republican running whom I would vote for.
Love to see a fly fly into their mouths when they are shouting like that. What "real" person speaks like that to people they respect?
GOPers be proud – these two are the face of the party, this week. Can you honestly standthere and tell yourself that either of these two individuals would stand a chance in a straight-up forensic-style debate with Barack Obama?! Really?!?!?!?! The only thing I worry about here is where Karl Rove is going to surface, and you can bet, he's going to surface and then the attack pitbulls of the GOP, with no reagrd for truth or facts, go to work! However, I don't think Obama is going to allow himself to be "swift-boated" like Kerry, do you?
Dominican mama 4 Obama-You got a way with telling the truth!!!! I agree with you. I will keep trying to tell the people of the hate-filled lies and half truths repugs n teaparty spews. As far as these legends in their own minds go...thats all they will remain. OBAMA-BIDEN 2012!!!!
"3 Year experiment".....who comes up with crap like this? "
It's a dogwhistle: we all know what part of Obama being POTUS they think is an "experiment"...they just can't come right out and say it.
Brendan, I hope you are right but the GOP dirty tricks people are very proficient at misleading the public (which is not difficult) and as Mark Tawin once said " a lie is halfway around the world before truth even has its shoes on".
The two battle it for biggest religious bigot and extremist. Nice choice.
On one hand we have the queen of handouts but against handouts for others, not to mention she doesn't get the basic concept of the debt ceiling.
The there's Slick Rick. Two questions that the media needs to ask him and be sure to get answers (not talking points) 1. If you wanted to secede from the United States, why are you running? If you are such a staunch states' rights supporter, what is your purpose for running for President of the UNITED States? As a bonus question – how does Slick's view of small government jive with his insistence on federal aid (including the renovation of the Gov mansion in Austin). Bonus #2 – what high-paying jobs that would lead to a larger middle class can he point to as a result of his policies? How does America compete globally if we continue to slash education across the board as he's done in TX?
both Perry and Bachman come across as intellectually bankrupt. they –as most do–appeal to people's base emotions (fear, patriotism, morality, judgment, etc. . .).
Even if I don't plan to vote for Obama, i can't see how he's responsible for all that is happening economically. sheesh. . and Bachman really expects people to believe that?
I guess some will.
dumb and dumber. Neither has a chance but I hope one of them gets the nominaiton...and takes the other as VP....LANDSLIDE reelection of Obama
so will this be Clinton/Obama part two? One good thing about this, perhaps Bachmann can go on the attack and expose Perry's myth about being the great jobs creator down here in Texas. That'll save some of the Democrats from doing it. Once the real book is open on our sorry Texas leader, I think more will be willing to look elsewhere for their vote in 2012.
crazy lady and gwb's idiot brother. omg. this is the best they have? god help us if one of them wins. president obama will slaughter either one of these god-nuts in a debate. but then, they could pray to win, right? who ever prays the best will win, right? let the games begin!!
When considering Rick Perry, consider Cameron Todd Willingham.
I thought they were just going to pray each other away. Not particulaerly good political theater I admit, but then I'd rather join in and pray them away than listen to them.
This is getting better all the time for Democrats. As long as the GOP only reaches out to their extreme base, and ignores what appeals to, or turns off, the vast middle of America, they have no hope in the general election.
This is all the GOP has come up with ?? I guess it's OBAMA 2012!!!
"Blame Not Working – Perry & Bachmann have "taken all the oxygen out of the room" for Obambi.......and the main reason is Obambi's response to all his woes, it began with; "Blame Bush", so now that all have become weary with that, it is now ;" Blame Republicans!"
Problem is, The Blame Others for all his woes has become Obambi's Albatrose! You guys need to come up with a new line"
Darn and here was me thinking you guys kept blaming Obama or a Dem congress for stuff.
"Texas has more minimum wage jobs than any other state in the union – and fewer jobs that pay worth anything. "
Don't worry, the "liberal" MSM will do everything it can not to report about the actual character of the "job creation" Perry helped create in TX and will most certainly be studiously ignoring the massive financial problems TX's state government is experiencing under him as a result of his scorched earth spending cuts and tax cuts for the privileged few.
“We have just gone through a three-year experiment with the American economy that has gone tragically bad,” he said. “There are a lot of independents and even some Democrats who are going to take a look at the options here.
On the idiot scale of 1 to 10, Perry rates a 12 for this jem. What experiment is he talking about? The last three years have be an attempt to resusitate an ecomomy in the face of special interests who have paid the GOP to fight the President every step of the way. If anything it has been an experiment in how lobbyists and big business control our government, how easy it is to manipulate the media and misinform the public and how a political party has abdicated its responsiblitly to govern in the best intertests of America exchange for a single minded attempt to undermine the Preident and grab more power in Washington. The word shame is not big enough.
Its terrifying, but Bachmann or Perry could win the presidency–The economy is really working against Obama.