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.”
Two things, my god this woman's whiney voice is worse than Palins. The good thing is that if she was President any war or discussion with foreign countries would go our way just so they wouldn't have to listen to her. Please, someone run your fingernails down a chalk board to drown her out.
Why Perry? Jobs!
What you call jobs, I call indentured servitude. Just more of the GOP same - driving the gap larger between the haves and have nots. Fortunately, there are some that think deeper and research facts before falling for Slick's pre-packaged fecal matter....
Just curious, how come CNN isn't reporting anything about Ron Paul – 2nd place star poll winner?
I'm guessing it may be because he wasn't at this dinner/fundraiser thing they are speaking of. I'm not a die-hard Paul fan so I wasn't sure if he was at this event, but I do like the guy, so I'd like to hear more about him that way I can start forming decisions. I feel like the media picks a few candidates and reports so much about them that it's hard to hear other candidates' views.
Anyway, if Paul wasn't at this event I look forward to future events that he attends so I can hopefully hear more about him from the news reports.
Is there a lesser of the two evils? Are both extra-fundamentalist? Parry is "proud" to be a second Shrub?! How much grey matter in these brains? How much normal thinking capacity? Whooooeeeee, what a nutty place. God help us.
My question to these GOP/Tea Party candidates is about "entitlements". So, if we do away with Social Security and Medicare, when will the government stop taking these taxes out of our paychecks? And, when will we get a refund check for all that we have paid in to this trust program?
Either one of these would guarantee a win for Obama. Michele went on her media tour giving the same talking points over and over. Rick Perry just seems scarry up there. It looked like a revival meeting.
What sort of jobs has Rick Perry created in TX, and why did his efforts put the state $26 Billion in the hole? If Texas has a constitutionally weak governor ( in the words of Orrin Hatch), what could he have actually accomplished? According to his own criteria, government does nto create jobs, so how can he take credit for that? What have been the significant pieces of legislation Bachmann has authored that have been signed into law, either in Congress or in the Minnesota legislature? What have been their instances of working together with the oppostion to get something done? This is not about ideology anymore, it has to be about accomplishments and being able to get things done. Neither of these two have done anything in their careers that indicates leadership ability, legislative accomplishments, or an ability ot get things done by working with the opposition. Obama, for all his faults, has shown a willingness to listen and work with people: he showed it in the US Senate, and he showed it in the IL State Senate. Bachmann voted for a default, and Perry has advocated secession rather than consider making healthcare available to more people in his state, then has the gall to scream about a lack of federal aid when the Feds were already picking up more than 2/3 of the tab to combat wildfires. He had no money in his state because he was too busy creating part-time jobs at Wal-Mart through tax cuts and gutting education,health, safety, and environmental enforcement and helping the Donald Trumps of the world funnel more money out the country to avoid taxes. Meanwhile, his own personal wealth has dramatically increrased since he became governor. To independents, ask yourselves if these two are the best and brightest our country has?
Same agenda. Same message. Same hate for the current residing president, and it's more than apparent that there's more than a little race involved in the speech patterns. Also, it reminds us that whenever the country is being guided by someone other than a republican, the amount of rhetoric and rage seems to have no ending. Seems like just yesterday we (as citizens), were reminded that to question, or criticize the previous president (eL Strupido Grande), was treasonous at best and blasphomous at worse. REMEMBER.
Perry: "That he is a full spectrum conservative with an unimpeachable record of job creation ..."
Check out the FACTS, folks, and see what a financial mess Texas is in, with the "job creation" at the lowest end of the pay scale.
Ever notice that the Repubs leave out the pesky details of "where" and at "what pay" for these "jobs" they've created?
Answer to the above:
Where = overseas
What pay = minimum wage
They look like contestants in a hog calling contest. Which is what the Republican primaries really are.
You must be an extremist to win the Republican primaries. You cannot be extremist to win the presidential election. Nice catch-22, conservatives!
So one of these people is going to lose to Obama, and then claim they were robbed by forward-looking progressive socialists? Pretty sad day for the once-proud GOP.
"Its terrifying, but Bachmann or Perry could win the presidency–The economy is really working against Obama."
It's pathetically sad that the GOP is more than willing to do everything to make our country fail and the economy to worsen so they can get back into power.
You see, the GOP and their corporate backers aren't hurting in this economy; they have more than enough money to get by. If some "poor folks" suffer, well, they don't deserve any better anyway (if they did, they would have been born rich).
All wrapped up in their holier-than-thou God/country/guns rhetoric, of course ...
All I can say about this Republican field of candidates is: Obama 2012
I couldn't give a crap about either of these "candidates". I don't understand why the press is giving them so much attention and completely ignoring RON PAUL. He's the only one that has anything to say that actually makes any sense.
You know, Squig's right: we were told over and over that opposing Dubya, an unelected but seated president, was pure treason. Why hasn't someone just arrested Perry and Bachmann?
The GOP is the political arm of the multi-national corporations who have their eyes on the emerging economies of China and India. There is a huge amount of money to be made in these countries and elsewhere, on the terms that these corporations absolutely LOVE:
Low-wage workers without expectation of not only benefits, but the freedoms of religion, speech, assembly and press!
Woo-hoo! Couldn't be better!
And the US? Just gotta keep pushing their workers down, so that THEY will become the cheap labor force to fuel the development of the third-world.
P.S. Don't forget to get the American suckers to vote Republican by appealing to their patriotism and love of God, hatred of gays and the fear that someone will take away their guns .... *snicker*
Bachman has no chance against a seasoned pro like Perry.
"You must be an extremist to win the Republican primaries. You cannot be extremist to win the presidential election. Nice catch-22, conservatives!"
Sort of. See, you're right that they will have to be total extremists to win the primary and that they will have to make their message more moderate and reasonable for the general...but what yuo forget is that the MSM is here to help them do that by selling us false equivalencies between GOPers and Dems and failing to report on hypocrisy or juxtapose the exrtemist rhetoric from the primary with the suddenly moderate crap they'll be spewing during the general. Were journalism not dead, the GOP would be.
Simply cannot believe anyone takes her seriously. She's like a made-for-tv movie, says all these things and we all wonder wtf?
"3 Year experiment".....who comes up with crap like this? "
Since the day President Obama was sworn in, the GOP has done everything to de-legitimize him. Why? Because they spent the previous 8 years saying if you criticized the president during war time, you were anti-American, anti-God and aiding our enemies.
The GOP wants their base to hate President Obama and feel OK about criticizing the POTUS during wartime, so they::
– had Limbaugh state he hoped President Obama would fail (anyone with a brain knows this means they want our country to fail, too)
– never called out the birthers for the freaks they are (if it could be proved in court, the GOP would have done it during the 2008 campaign)
GOP = Party Before Country
– had Fox News going full-tilt at him every chance they get (including, but not limited to, outright lying)
– have done everything they can to make the American people suffer and our economy stay in the doldrums (from Republican governors refusing stimulus money to falsely linking the debt ceiling to the budget debate, which resulted in our nation's credit rating being downgraded)
Apologies for the "3 year experiment" formatting .... browser hiccuped ...
The last line should be:
GOP = Party Before Country
(But then again, all thinking people know this already)
At any moment I think I will spontaneously break out in tears or laughter. How could a decent percentage of people support these 2 wackos? Hard to make little boy Bush appear bright but these 2 could maybe do just that.
This should be interesting. Both claim to be Christians. Who will they choose to back?
Warren Buffet came out today and said that the Government needs to stop pandering to the Mega Wealthy and tax them accordingly.....he said the only paid 17% in taxes on his billions of dollars and yet his employees had a much higher tax rate an average of 36%.....doesn't seem fair does it? He even said that by raising their taxes wouldn't stop them from investing.....so why are the Republicans and Tea Party against raising taxes on the rich?
The race to the bottom has begun.