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Rick Perry Bus Tour Day 13: Moving to Larger Venues
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New Years Eve found the campaign running much like it has been all week. Texas Gov. Rick Perry continues his campaign bus tour, and the campaign workers are backing up the bus tour with an aggressive ground game push. The crowds are great, the stump speech remains flawless, the ads on TV and radio are excellent, the Internet ads look good. But the polls refuse to budge much. Despite this, the Perry bus tour is moving to larger venues to accommodate the larger crowds and the international press.
Before we Begin the Bus Tour
Ron Paul, whose supporters for months have complained that he doesn't get equal billing in the mainstream media, is now dissing the press intentionally. It's something about those pesky questions about the Ron Paul "newsletters":
Meanwhile, national reporters on the Paul beat are grumbling that the candidate almost never takes their questions at events anymore and has done only one press “avail” since August — and that ended abruptly after two minutes last week when someone asked about the newsletters.
The tightened access to reporters is fairly typical for a candidate near the top of the polls bearing down on voting day. But in a half-dozen interviews with reporters assigned to follow Paul on the trail, journalists expressed frustration about how inaccessible Paul had become — particularly after his campaign’s loud complaints this summer about not getting covered.
“They’ve been sending out fundraising letters saying, ‘We don’t get enough coverage,’ but they don’t do media avails, and a lot of us reporters are frustrated,” said one Paul beat reporter who asked not to be named because the reporter didn’t have permission to talk to the press. “He had been answering reporter questions on his way out the door, but since he has been back from Christmas, on Wednesday, he hasn’t even been doing that.”
Newt Gingrich is crying in Iowa, at a conference on mothers. The news media is hyping this as Newt's "Hillary Clinton" moment (Hillary teared up in 2008, while campaigning in New Hampshire, and went on to win the primary there). If I were in a Republican nomination process, I'd rather not be crying. Unless I am attempting to steal some Ron Paul supporters.
Regardless of crying on TV or "newsletters," Perry is not getting much of a break in the mainstream media polling. Our new candidate du jour is Rick Santorum, who has, to use the word that is becoming a cliche, "surged" into third place. I guess the Des Moines Register poll is something to talk about all day, so here it is: Romney 24%; Paul 22%, Santorum 15%, Gingrich 12&, Perry 11%, and Bachmann 7%. See the Des Moines Register Dec. 31, 2011 Iowa Caucus Poll here. This is the raw poll results in *pdf.
Bottom line: The winner of this thing is who can physically get all 1700 caucus leaders to the polls with the proper materials, training, and talking points. And most importantly, motivation.
Here's the map of the Rick Perry bus tour on Dec. 31, 2011:
Fort Dodge, Iowa
C-Span broadcasted the entire event in Fort Dodge, Iowa:
Fox News conducted an interview with Perry live from the bus in between events:
The crowds are larger and the international press following Perry has outgrown the press bus. Many are following in their own rental cars, or carpooling. The event was originally scheduled for a small coffee shop down the street. But the Perry campaign made a last-minute pivot and moved the event to a much larger venue called The Gigglin' Goat. The room was packed and parking was scarce when we arrived in Boone, just in time to see the Perry bus caravan arrive.
Here is an iPhone video of the first three minutes of the Rick Perry stump speech in Boone:
I have a lot of pictures of the Boone, Iowa bus tour event on the Rick Perry Report Facebook page here.
In the Q&A portion, an Iowan asked about that nagging issue that will not go away, in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in Texas. Here's Perry's answer:
Arlette Saenz at ABC News reports what is really happening at these bus tour stops:
At each of the stops along his bus tour through Iowa over the past two weeks, the campaign set up a table asking people to sign up to become precinct leaders. During the first leg of the bus tour, they averaged about 7 people signing up at each event, the source claimed, but during the second leg of the tour this past week, the precinct leader sign-ups jumped to more than 10 at each stop.
The Texas press has never been in love with Perry. During his 2010 gubernatorial contest with former Houston Mayor Bill White, not one newspaper endorsed Perry. But Perry won in a landslide regardless. I saw The Dallas Morning News reporter at the very back of the Gigglin' Goat. "This was the most coherent speech I've seen Perry make in all my [15?] years of covering him," said TDMN reporter Christy Hoppe.
At the Gigglin’ Goat restaurant in Boone, where he attracted 150 people, Perry accused Santorum of voting to raise the debt ceiling eight times while serving in the Senate. “That’s more debt than even Obama has laid on us,” he said.
He also hit Santorum for voting for earmarks, including the Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere,” and for the subsidized Medicaid prescription drug benefit, which Perry called “the greatest entitlement expansion since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.”
“I am the limited-government conservative who is going to stand up and give Washington, D.C., a real overhaul,” Perry said.
To underscore the Texas press' disdain for Perry, look at the picture on the Dallas Morning News story linked above. Rick Perry is now a shadow of himself. Editorializing via photography. It was creative, I have to admit.
The reporting from the Perry bus tour appears to start turning to the "comeback" genre, but (certainly) a liberal media outlet like The Atlantic is not ready to admit that. But surprisingly, they almost do in this piece by Molly Ball:
As the days to the caucuses wane, Perry has things other candidates would kill for: Crowds who want to meet him, ads all over the airwaves, a decent ground organization, an anti-Washington message people are hungry for, and terrific hair. The question is whether it's too little, too late, to get through the crowded pack ahead of him.
"I'd really like to see Rick Perry come out of Iowa. I think he needs that opportunity on the national level," she said. "I know there have been missteps along the way, but his philosophy is what we need in a candidate."
Carolyn Erickson, an 81-year-old from Ogden, thought she'd made up her mind to support Romney, but Perry changed her mind.
"I was what you call impressed" with Romney when she saw him Thursday, she said. "Today, I'm excited. I feel a passion for [Perry]."
Compare and contrast. Molly wrote about a Santorum event at a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar earlier in Ames, Iowa on Dec. 30, 2011:
Instead, the mob of cameras that trailed Santorum into the establishment clogged the aisles and interfered with patrons' game-watching, drawing complaints and ill will. You could count the number of potential GOP caucus-goers on two hands.
The Hill reports that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said, "Governor Perry is going to do better than some people think."
Finally, a remark about the Politico hit piece on the Perry campaign. If you haven't seen it, you can read it here. Politico reports of sharp divisions between the "old" Texas wing of the Perry campaign and the new "more experienced with presidential campaigns" team brought in around October, just before the notorious "Oops" moment at the Detroit, Michigan debate. I have seen nothing in the ground game being executed right now in Iowa that points to any kind of division of visions. The Perry events are well-attended, his speeches are nearly flawless, and the campaign is executing the ground game remarkably. I hope Politico got their "hits."
Perry responded to the Politico article:
[Perry said,] “We got in the race late, obviously, in August and some of these folks have been running for years,” he explained, adding that “nobody has got a better ground game.”
On Fox News Sunday this morning, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad explains the Iowa caucus process:
Arlette Saenz of ABC News gets the link.
Picture credit to The Dallas Morning News for its creativity but nothing else.
Read more about it at abcnews.go.com