Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with son Griffin, right, attend the Politics and Eggs Breakfast Wednesday in Bedford, N.H. (AP)
By Fred Thys
BEDFORD, N.H. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry is back in New Hampshire — his second visit in less than a week. But several people — both moderate Republicans and Tea Partiers — who turned out to hear Perry Wednesday were disappointed.
In Bedford Wednesday morning, Perry told people that he plans to spend some time campaigning in New Hampshire. “I’m gonna be here a lot,” he said.
New Hampshire is the state former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is counting on to propel him to the Republican nomination. He’s leading in the polls there.
When Perry says he’s “going to be here a lot,” he’s saying he’s not just going to go after evangelical voters in Iowa and southern voters. He’s going to go after a very different kind of Republican.
The Moderate Test
“The New Hampshire Republicans are moderate Republicans,” said Andy Smith, the director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. “Conservative on fiscal issues and tax issues and size of government issues, but on social issues, very much moderate to liberal.”
Perry was a big success with conservative Republican activists at a house party in Greenland on Saturday. But Wednesday morning’s event was Perry’s first test with moderate Republicans.
Politics & Eggs is practically a required stop on the New Hampshire campaign trail, and Perry clearly has people curious about him. He drew the biggest crowd since George W. Bush in 1999.
And they asked him a lot of questions, like what he would do to preserve generous pensions for the military. Here’s how he didn’t answer that question:
Well, I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds on this, but the fact that I am a veteran. Anita and I, we chose the Wounded Warrior Project to be the recipient of our inaugural proceeds that we had. We work not only in a public way but also in a private way to support those young men and women who are coming home, some who have been deployed four and five times…
“I thought it was flat,” Smith said of Perry’s performance.
OK, so Andy Smith didn’t give Perry a rave review.
But neither did some of the Republicans in the audience.
Laura Condon’s son is a Marine headed to Afghanistan. She has strong sympathies for the Tea Party, and she wanted to hear Perry say he would support continuing pensions for veterans, and she thought his answer was vague on that issue.
“I’m not impressed with him,” Condon said. “In New Hampshire, I think folks here were really excited to hear about Gov. Perry. We admire a lot of things that go on in Texas, his job growth there. We were looking for something really good from him, and the fact that he gave a lot of non-answers really does concern me. I know he came in the race late, but I don’t think he’s quite geared up, because he doesn’t have answers to our questions.”
Condon says she’s liking Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann more and more.
Karen Testerman was one of the Republican candidates for governor here last year. She says some people are already writing Romney off now that Perry has entered the race.
“But I don’t think so,” she said. “I think that Mitt is completely competitive.”
Testerman does not think Perry helped himself with his appearance Wednesday morning.
“Rick Perry is claiming to have done all this great job creation,” Testerman said. “They’ve been a right-to-work state since 1993. They have very friendly business policies in that state, so I don’t think he can credit himself with it. ”
In New Hampshire at this point, it sounds like it’s a three-way race between Perry, Bachmann and Romney.