Clive, Iowa (CNN) – On Tuesday evening, Gov. Rick Perry’s wife essentially slipped an iron fist into a velvet glove: blasting President Barack Obama, “setting the record straight” about her husband’s stance on illegal immigration and warning Republicans not to be taken by more “polished” Republican presidential candidates.
And for any conservative still fretting over the governor’s last shaky debate performance, his wife assured: he will get better at deflecting the “seven arrows” pointed at him in debates.
Anita Perry directly addressed those issues during two campaign appearances on her husband’s behalf in Iowa.
On the first stop, the wife of the Republican presidential candidate opened the campaign’s Iowa headquarters.
“I have to tell you, I’m a little hungry for a pork chop on a stick that I had at the [Iowa State] Fair when we were here in August,” Perry began her comments to the small crowd. “It's great to be back to people who are authentic and genuine like you are – because he is.”
The office is nestled among a pod of businesses in a newly-developed area in West Des Moines, a tony suburb of the state capital.
It was at her second stop of the evening – at a county GOP meeting – that Perry’s language grew bolder.
The candidate’s wife used President Obama’s well-known campaign slogan to blast his record on jobs. “The president promised us hope,” she said. “But for more than 200,000 people in this state alone of Iowa, who can’t find work, and for the 45 million Americans who now rely on food stamps just to feed their family, hope is short and hard to come by.”
Calling the president a “debater-in-chief,” Perry warned Republicans not to be taken by any GOP presidential candidate with too much political sparkle.
“Some people may be more polished in their presentations, like the little debate they had last week,” she said, adding that no other candidate is more principled.
Later, while speaking to reporters, Perry was asked if that was a slam against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Recently, her husband cast Romney as “slick.”
“No I’m not going to say that about my good friend Mitt,” she said. Then Perry added: “But… Gov. Romney’s been running for president, I think, for four or five years. And that was my husband’s third debate… on a national stage. So I think it’s really unfair to compare them.”
The wife did acknowledge her husband’s lackluster debate performance.
“I think he would tell you that the other night was not his best performance,” she said. “But he’s only going to get better.”
“I think when you have seven arrows being shot at you, and you’re the one person in the middle, then 30-seconds rebuttal doesn’t give you a lot of time.”
Meanwhile, Perry also tried to allay any concern over the governor’s stances on illegal immigration. The Texas chief executive, his wife said, stands against illegal immigration, favors a “boots on the ground” approach to stem it along the U.S.-Mexican border and has fought against the flow of drugs and weapons across the border.
But the governor’s defense of a Texas law that provides in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants has irked many conservatives.
On that, the wife set about “setting the record straight.”
“Some have attacked Rick on this issue. ...so I want you to be armed with the facts,” she said. “In Texas, we only offer in-state tuition to residents of our state who have attended a Texas school for a minimum of three years and have earned a high degree. Children in the country illegally must be pursuing their citizenship in order to get an in-state rate. It is not a subsidy.”
Perry continued: “When Washington has failed to secure the border, has shown no sign of dealing with the millions that are here illegally, states like Texas are left with one of two choices: either we take care of those populations or they get on welfare which is a greater cost to our taxpayers. Or we give them the opportunity to graduate from a Texas school the opportunity to be a contributing member of society.”
Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN