Rick Perry in Iowa: 'It's a long haul; you gotta come here and stay'

DES MOINES, IA (KTRK) -- Former Texas Governor Rick Perry admits he made mistakes early in his 2012 presidential bid, even during the brief time he sat atop in the polls in late summer.

Speaking with Eyewitness News at the Iowa State Fair, Perry said he didn't invest the time needed to win the hearts and minds of Iowans.

"It's a long haul. You gotta come here and stay," he said. "One of the things I learned in 2011 is that you can't just parachute in here and expect to perform very well."

This time is different. He's made more than twenty trips here, even before announcing his 2016 candidacy in early June. He's visiting the state almost weekly, and spends time speaking with every Iowan who approaches him.

"They want to see the candidates and they want to see you a lot," he stressed. "In 2011 I got in here late, was at the top of the polls, didn't stay there very long."

Perry is lagging in most polls, both in Iowa and nationally, and his fundraising is lackluster so far. But Texas's longest serving Governor says he's not concerned with either.

"Here's how I look at it," he explained. "Everybody had their ups and downs financially or whether it was the state of Texas. In 2003 we had a 3 billion dollar shortfall. I know how to deal with that. You cut the spending. Just like we're making our footprint pretty small. But I'm gonna be here."

One of Perry's top advisers, Jamie Johnson, pointed to John McCain's 2008 campaign. That cycle's Republican nominee was nearly out of cash before storming back to win New Hampshire and gather much needed momentum on his way to clinching the party's nomination.

Johnson, who worked on former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's campaign in 2012 and is now Perry's national campaign director, said that campaign had virtually no money and was polling in the low single digits before Santorum edged eventual nominee Mitt Romney and won the Iowa Caucus.

He explained that is the narrative upon which Perry is campaigning.

During his visit to the fair, a place to which all presidential hopefuls must come and ply their political wares, Perry walked with a small contingent of staffers, stopping every few feet to take photographs with fair-goers and answer their questions.

He eased into a chef's bib and took to flipping pork burgers at the Pork Producer's pavilion before eating a chop and sipping on tea. While some candidates "flip and go", as one pavilion staffer told us, Perry spent a long time.

During his stump speech at the The Des Moines Register's Soapbox, a small platform surrounded by a hundred onlookers and a dozen bales of hay, Perry stressed his rural upbringing as a foundation for his moral character and the way he views the world. He told those in attendance of his military service and that of his father. He stressed that Washington is out of touch and overreaching.

There was a lone heckler in the crowd who identified herself as a Houstonian. She kept asking Perry about his criminal indictment, yelling over him several times during the speech. Perry is accused of abusing his power while in office in 2013. Perry has called the charges, one of which was dropped this summer, as politically motivated. He did not directly address the heckler, who also complained about the Governor's refusal to accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars for the state.

Generally, Perry's address was well-received by the crowd that grew during his twenty minute speech.
His is a campaign clearly on the ropes, with little national support in the polls and from pocketbooks. But Perry says he is slowly earning Iowans trust. He says he's listening and there is a long way to go before any real votes are cast.
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