Washington (CNN) - As he faces growing scrutiny about his conservative credentials, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called grassroots activists in the key early states of Iowa and South Carolina on Monday evening to address his record and take questions.
The Perry campaign conducted two "tele-town halls," dialing into the homes of targeted GOP voters across both states and asking them to hold for the governor, according to a South Carolina Republican source who received one of the calls.
Perry was introduced on the South Carolina call by former South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, Perry's campaign chairman in the state.
The candidate immediately set about defending his record on three issues that have come to define his campaign in recent weeks: immigration, Social Security, and his 2007 executive order mandating that school girls be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.
"He said, 'You all have heard a lot of things out there, so let me set the record straight,'" said the source who was on the South Carolina call. "I was struck by the fact that he started out on defense instead of offense."
Perry was pummeled by his opponents in consecutive debates for defending the HPV effort and supporting a 2001 Texas bill that grants in-state college tuition to the children of illegal immigrants.
The governor's aggressive defense of the immigration bill during last week's GOP debate in Orlando was a contributing factor in his embarrassing second-place finish in Saturday's Presidency 5 Straw Poll, a contest he was expected to win.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has pointedly accused Perry of wanting to dismantle Social Security.
Dawson, Perry's South Carolina chairman, confirmed that the town hall took place Monday and called it "a general rally-the-troops call."
Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Perry also conducted a tele-town hall in Iowa, which will hold the leadoff contest of the GOP nomination next year, to deliver a similar message.
"He takes issues head on," Miner said, "unlike Mitt Romney, who changes his positions frequently."
Dawson said Perry "went right into it" on the South Carolina call.
"He said, 'Let me clear these things up and tell you where I am. This is my stance from me, not the media, not the pundits,'" Dawson said of the governor.
He said Perry did not back away from the positions he outlined in the debates, but spent more time explaining them than he was allowed by the television networks.
According to Dawson, Perry told activists on the call that the immigration bill was "the right thing to do" in Texas, where it was opposed by just four state legislators.
"He talked about immigration extensively," Dawson said. "And he offered his vision of how the border can be secured and will be secure if he is president."
Perry also discussed his ideas for job creation and taxes, Dawson said.
Perry addressed the issues for roughly five minutes before opening the call to questions, explained the South Carolina source on the call, who said Perry sounded like he was trying to reassure conservative voters after a troubling few weeks.
"If he is having a tele-town hall in South Carolina and the things he talked about are defending his positions on immigration, Social Security and HPV, that is telling to me," the source said.
New week, same Perry-Romney battle