WATERLOO, Iowa — Texas Gov. Rick Perry went directly after President Obama on Sunday, rousing the fervor of fellow Republicans as few of his GOP nomination rivals have so far shown they can do.
"One of the powerful reasons for running for president of the United States is to make sure every man and woman who puts on the uniform [of the U.S. military] respects highly the president of the United States," Mr. Perry said to applause and whistles at a Lincoln Day Dinner here Sunday evening.
"We are indignant about a president who apologizes for America," said Mr. Perry, who officially announced Saturday that he would seek the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr. Perry left the podium and moved with ease about the stage, looking directly at individual members of the audience instead of reading from a script. He also took questions from the audience, again with an ease few Republican candidates have shown.
The governor was one of three Republican candidates scheduled to speak at the Black Hawk County Republican Party's annual dinner — following former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and preceding the winner of Saturday's straw poll, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Mr. Santorum, the fourth-place finisher in the informal Ames survey, sported an open-collared sport shirt and joked about his showing, looking relaxed and happy doing so.
"Per dollar spent per vote, we won here in Iowa," he told the dinner guests and got a round of appreciative laughter and applause.
Mr. Santorum said he and his wife and seven children had planned to head back to Pennsylvania, but "I felt so good about how I did in the straw poll Saturday I thought I'd come here and see more fine Iowans."
Mrs. Bachmann waited outside the building until Mr. Perry and Mr. Santorum were done speaking, prompting Republicans at the dinner to debate whether the move was politeness or a snub of two men intruding on her home turf.
But there were no internal Republican fireworks at the event — no snipes by the winner of the straw poll at the Texas governor who won a surprising number of write-in votes in the same straw poll. And Mr. Perry has little reason to denounce Mrs. Bachmann and much reason to take on front-running former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was absent.
Mrs. Bachmann, in a white dress, staked out a place to the side of the podium and held a microphone first in one hand and then the other, comfortable with her hometown audience, which gave her a warm reception and ate up her applause lines denouncing judicial activism and praising the tea party movement.
"I will not appoint activist judges to the [federal] bench who do not believe in the original intent of the Constitution," she said, laying out the basis of what she called her pride in being a social conservative, including support for the marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
"The fiscal conservatives in this nation have made their voices clear in this nation [...] the tea party has been the antidote to spending, and rather than dissing the tea party, we should be praising it."
Displaying the speaking volume and clarity that is the envy of many a candidate, she also attributed her victory in the straw poll to being "a real person, I was born here."
She brought on stage a large white paper box containing an apple pie — "What could be more American?" she asked — to give to the oldest Repubican mother among the 300 dinner guests and standing-room-only ticket holders jamming the Waterloo Electric Park Ballroom, part of the National Cattle Congress complex here.
She then proceeded to ask for a show of hands to determine who that mother might be, eliminating one age level after another until she found the winner: Mary Canfield, 100.
When Mrs. Bachmann formally announced her candidacy in this same ballroom in June, before the first televised debate of the election cycle, more than 500 guests were present.
But this time, because of Mr. Perry's late decision to address the Lincoln Day Dinner here, Black Hawk County GOP Chairman Mac MacDonald had only five business days to organize this as a candidates event. Also, about one-fourth of the ballroom was taken up by the press, at tables that normally seat paying guests.
Mr. Perry made his formal announcement of candidacy in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday, stealing some of the headlines from Mrs. Bachmann and her straw- poll win. Mr. Perry has a breakfast scheduled with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a fellow Republican, at 7 a.m. in Des Moines and then goes on to the Iowa state fair by midmorning.
A Perry aide said the governor relishes a chance to be in proximity to President Obama on Tuesday, when the two men are scheduled to be in the same TV market.
"Tuesday we are going to take the whip to Obama in same media market in Davenport, Iowa," strategist David Carney said.
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