DES MOINES—Texas Governor Rick Perry took a risk announcing his candidacy when the media was focused on the Ames Straw Poll — but it worked.With his campaign barely a day old, Perry’s entrance into the race is generating buzz across the early states. And while Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) won the straw poll on Saturday, Perry took some of the glow off her victory, casting a shadow over her campaign and its future prospects.
Announcing in South Carolina, he followed with a trip to New Hampshire, then Iowa — going head-to-head with Bachmann in her childhood hometown of Waterloo. The aggressive roll-out combined with his surging national poll numbers instantly vaulted him to the level of a top-tier candidate.
Perry placed sixth in the straw poll as a write-in candidate hours after he made his formal announcement —ahead of Mitt Romney who was on the ballot, but didn’t organise any kind of campaign to win Straw Poll votes.
Perry’s announcement speech hit all the right notes. A number of Iowa GOP operatives said they were impressed, despite their frustration that he skipped Saturday’s Straw Poll in Ames — a key fundraiser for the party and an organizational test for the candidates.
On Sunday in Waterloo, Perry was greeted by a standing ovation from the crowd. He gave a speech touching on everything from debt and jobs to foreign policy and the military. (He’s the only candidate in the race with military experience.) He also described himself as a member of the tea party — a movement usually associated with Bachmann — saying “we’re indignant” with Washington.
Bachmann followed Perry, but was not as well received, giving a variation of her standard stump speech.
Her campaign would not allow her to enter the the Electric Park Ballroom, where the Black Hawk County Republican party was holding a fundraiser, until the lighting was changed and Perry had finished speaking. But Bachmann is not the only one feeling threatened by Perry — the Boston Herald called him “Romney’s worst nightmare” in a banner headline Sunday.
Perry has the ability to undo Bachmann’s rise in Iowa, but his defining test will come in South Carolina. If he wins the Palmetto State, he will win the rest of the South. If he wins the South, he will be the favourite to win the nomination.
His nascent campaign has yet to face the gruelling scrutiny given to his competitors. A ton of negative information about his personal life, his political campaigns and his tenure as governor of Texas will soon be dumped on his head. That’s the next test for the Perry for President campaign.