Perry seeks to win over Iowa, a handshake at a time

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LE MARS, Iowa (AP) — Rick Perry is working his way through small-town Iowa one handshake, bear hug and backslap at a time.

The early, hands-on approach from the 2016 presidential prospect contrasts with his failed bid four years ago, when he entered the race relatively late and stumbled in the debates. The former Texas governor says he has more policy knowledge under his belt buckle now and more time for the early states.

"Nobody came to Iowa more in 2014 than I did," Perry said after speaking to about 20 people at a Pizza Ranch in Sioux Center this past week. "And I will suggest to you that will probably be the case in 2015. If somebody is going to spend more time in Iowa than I am, they better bring their lunch."

Rick Perry through the years
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Perry seeks to win over Iowa, a handshake at a time
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 21: Former Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference May 21, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. About a dozen possible presidential candidates will join the conference and lobby for supports from Republican voters. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - MAY 16: Former Texas Governor Rick Perry greets guests at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. The event sponsored by the Republican Party of Iowa gave several Republican presidential hopefuls an opportunity to strengthen their support among Iowa Republicans ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - MAY 09: Former Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at the Freedom Summit on May 9, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. Perry joined eleven other potential candidates in addressing the event hosted by conservative group Citizens United. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the National Rifle Association convention, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
WAUKEE, IA - APRIL 25: Former Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian organization, hosted 9 potential contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nominations at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
NASHUA, NH - APRIL 17: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit April 17, 2015 in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Summit brought together local and national Republicans and was attended by all the Republicans candidates as well as those eyeing a run for the nomination. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
NASHUA, NH - APRIL 17: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former New York Gov. George Pataki greet each other at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit April 17, 2015 in Nashua, New Hampshire. The Summit brought together local and national Republicans and was attended by all the Republicans candidates as well as those eyeing a run for the nomination. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 10: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits on April 10, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. The annual NRA meeting and exhibit runs through Sunday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, speaks during an event to formally announce his presidential campaign in a hangar at Addison Airport in Addison, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, June 4, 2015. Perry today announced his second bid for the U.S. presidency, seeking to rehabilitate his image nationally after a series of stumbles and gaffes ended his campaign in 2012. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
SUMMERVILLE, SC - JANUARY 12: Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry greets greets workers at Guerin's Pharmacy and soda fountain on January 12, 2012 in Summerville, South Carolina. Guerin's is the oldest pharmacy in South Carolina, founded in 1871. Voters in South Carolina will head to the polls on January 21st. to vote in the primary election to pick their choice for U.S. presidential candidate. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry hugs Texas A&M mascot Reveille VIII before an NCAA college football game against LSU Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
FILE - In this Dec. 21, 2013 file photo, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, poses for photos with the most valuable player, offensive, Allen quarterback Kyler Murray, following a 63-28 win over Pearland during a UIL Class 5A Division I high school football championship game in Arlington, Texas. Murray, who has a 41-0 record as the starter and is trying to win a third straight state championship, is the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors Player of the Year. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen, File)
Texas Governor Rick Perry in Beverly Hills on Tuesday morning, February 12, 2013 talks about his campaign to lure California businesses to Texas. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
BOONE, IA - DECEMBER 31: Republican presidential hopeful Texas governor Rick Perry speaks during a campaign stop at The Gigglin' Goat on December 31, 2011 in Boone, Iowa. With less than one week before the Iowa caucuses, Rick Perry is continuing his bus tour through Iowa. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
BUDA, TX - NOVEMBER 2: Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry speaks to supporters at the Victory Texas and Republican Party of Texas election night watch party at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch on November 2, 2010 in Buda, Texas. Gov. Perry has been elected to his third term by defeating Democratic challenger Bill White. (Photo by Ben Sklar/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 9: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to delegates at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, April 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Many of the Republican Party's most prominent members will be speaking at the conference which runs from April 8-11. (Photo by Cheryl Gerber/Getty Images)
US President George W. Bush (L) participates in a briefing on Hurricane Ike damage with Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, September 16, 2008. Bush travelled to The hurricane affected areas to reassure residents that the government would work as quickly as possible to restore normality to Texas. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Rick Perry (R) Governor of Texas speaks during a press conference offered at US Embassy in Mexico City, 24 June 2004. Perry declared that his Government takes the cases of Mexican in the death road in Texas 'very very seriously, every one of those cases are reviewed by my office and by me personally before they go forward. At left, the US Ambassador in Mexico, Tony Garza. AFP PHOTO/Omar TORRES (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is shown as he is introduced at the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce meeting on Friday, Feb. 1, 2002, in Austin, Texas. Gov. Perry touted his education record and took a jab at a Democratic contender, saying the "forces of mediocrity" want to weaken the state's school accountability system. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)
393611 04: Governor Tomas Yarrington (L) of the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, and Texas Governor Rick Perry listen to remarks during the U.S. and Mexico Border Summit August, 22, 2001 in Edinburg, TX. (Photo by Alicia Wagner Calzada/Getty Images)

Although politicking in diners and pizza places is hardly new in the leadoff caucus state, Perry has been notably active in some of Iowa's more out-of-the-way places, which get less frequent traffic from presidential hopefuls. Since 2014, he has made more than a dozen visits to Iowa.

"I think it's a good strategy," said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, noting that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum employed a similar tactic in 2012 and narrowly won the caucuses. "It's not a bad strategy to be kind of under the radar and just kind of build."

Perry, 65, has also been spending time in other early voting states, such as New Hampshire and South Carolina. He says he will announce on June 4 whether he's running for president again.

Perry launched his 2012 presidential bid with fanfare and high expectations, but quickly went from being a front-runner to an also-ran because of gaffes and poor debate performances. This time, Perry is hoping his energetic pursuit of each vote will help people forget his "oops" moment, when he was unable to recall the third of three federal agencies he said he would close if elected president.

A look around the potential GOP field

Potential Republican Presidential Candidates
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Perry seeks to win over Iowa, a handshake at a time

Rand Paul

Unfavorable Opinion: 15%

Familiarity: 64%

Favorable Opinion: 49%

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Marco Rubio

Unfavorable Opinion: 8%

Familiarity: 55%

Favorable Opinion: 47%

Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Ted Cruz

Unfavorable Opinion: 13%

Familiarity: 57%

Favorable Opinion: 44%

Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Chris Christie

Unfavorable Opinion: 31%

Familiarity: 71%

Favorable Opinion: 40%

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Rick Santorum

Unfavorable Opinion: 21%

Familiarity: 56%

Favorable Opinion: 35%

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Jeb Bush

Unfavorable Opinion: 20%

Familiarity: 76%

Favorable Opinion: 56%

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Rick Perry

Unfavorable Opinion: 18%

Familiarity: 66%

Favorable Opinion: 48%

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mike Huckabee

Unfavorable Opinion: 16%

Familiarity: 72%

Favorable Opinion: 56%

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 29: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee waves while taking the stage during the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC, which is scheduled to conclude August 30. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Bobby Jindal

Unfavorable Opinion: 7%

Familiarity: 40%

Favorable Opinion: 33%

Photo Credit: Tom Williams/Getty Images

Scott Walker

Unfavorable Opinion: 5%

Familiarity: 46%

Favorable Opinion: 41%

Photo Credit: Bill Clark/Getty Images

Ben Carson

Unfavorable Opinion: 3%

Familiarity: 39%

Favorable Opinion: 36%

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images


Perry's aides have said he wasn't prepared when he entered the last presidential race and have blamed his debate problems on a busy schedule and pain medication he was taking after back surgery. After finishing fifth in the Iowa caucuses and sixth in New Hampshire's primary, Perry quit the race.

"I hadn't spent the time and the preparations that I should have," he says now.

During stops in conservative northwestern Iowa, Perry boasted about his record as the longest-serving governor in Texas history, citing his state's low taxes, limited regulation and caps on civil lawsuit damages. An animated speaker, Perry gestures dramatically as he talks about his farm upbringing, military record and experience in office.

"I don't just talk about 'here's what I would do,' but I say 'here's what I've done,'" he said. "This is going to be a show-me, don't-tell-me election. Executive experience has been what's been missing out of the White House."

Texas has a booming population and posted solid job growth during much of Perry's time as governor, when he served out the end of George W. Bush's last term and then was elected to three terms from December 2000 to January of this year. But it has the nation's highest rate of residents without health insurance and the economy has been hurt in recent months by falling oil prices.

One shadow hanging over him this time: Perry is facing a criminal abuse-of-power indictment in Austin for threatening in 2013 to veto state funding for public corruption prosecutors, then doing so.

If he runs, Perry will enter a race packed with contenders, some of them also former or current governors.

Still, former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn saw opportunity for Perry in the state.

"The good news is, Iowans are going to give Gov. Perry a second chance, and he's doing all the right things," Strawn said. "The bad news is, it's a stronger field of options than four years ago."

As Perry packs in appearances in early voting states, he's also quietly expanding his national network, with an advisory board of donors and Republican officials. Many are prominent GOP names from Texas, but the board also has people from financial centers around the country.

Several Iowa Republicans said they were impressed by Perry, though not ready to commit.

"He's got a great personality," said Leann Bohlken, 56, of Le Mars, who chatted with Perry in an ice cream parlor. "He didn't have to share a personal story with me, but he did."


Peoples reported from Washington.

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