Perry's Day in N.H. Highlights His Uphill Climb

Perry's Day in N.H. Highlights His Uphill Climb

By Scott Conroy - November 29, 2011

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Rick Perry's campaign has long vowed that the Texas governor would compete earnestly in the New Hampshire primary, despite the long odds he faces here.

With a jampacked schedule of campaign events Tuesday, Perry made good on that promise, showing off some of the retail politicking skills that give his once-promising campaign at least some grounds for hope of a comeback.

But Perry also hit some of the stumbling blocks that make such a comeback an uphill climb in New Hampshire, where his support stands at just 2.8 percent, according to the latest RCP polling average.

In an effort to highlight his bona fides on combating illegal immigration, Perry used this visit to unveil the endorsement of controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose hard-line methods and rhetoric have made him popular among many in the Republican base.

At a diner stop in Amherst, Arpaio said that he supported Perry in part “because he’s been fighting this battle as the governor. He doesn’t just talk about it, he does something about it.”

But Apraio delivered only brief remarks there and at a later event in Manchester and was decidedly low-key in bestowing praise upon Perry.

“I don’t know the governor that much,” Arpaio conceded in Amherst. “I’ve talked to him a few times, but to me, he’s an honorable and ethical person.”

For his part, Perry said that he would be a “law and order president” and vowed to have the border with Mexico secured within his first year in office with the help of an immediate deployment of thousands of National Guard troops.

In an indication of the extent to which Perry has been defined by his early stumbles and opponents’ success in attacking his record, Perry was grilled by separate voters over his past characterization of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” and his suggestion that those who did not support in-state tuition breaks for the children of illegal immigrants “don’t have a heart.”

In both cases, Perry found himself on the defensive.

“Our legislature made that decision, and that is a state-by-state decision,” Perry said of the tuition breaks. “I said in a debate something that was very inappropriate, and I said that people were heartless. And that was absolutely an inappropriate thing to say. I understand your concerns about the issue of illegal immigration, and that was absolutely an incorrect thing to say. As the sheriff knows, I’ve been fighting the illegal immigration issue for a decade, but the people of Texas made that decision -- by an overwhelming vote, I might add.”

His audiences throughout the day were at their most receptive when Perry touted his much-acclaimed jobs record in Texas and his vision for lifting the nation out of economic stagnation.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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