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Some pundits said Mr. Perry’s comments show why he is a favorite of the GOP’s tea-party wing.

“The mood in the tea party is that defense budgets have to be cut as much as anything else,” Oregon pollster Floyd Ciruli said. “Tea-party voters and even moderate Republicans are strongly anti-interventionist, not so much for philosophical reasons as for the budget.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mr. Perry’s chief rival in the polls, had little to say on foreign policy Wednesday, again leaving some analysts unsure of where he stands.

“I … don’t expect to see [Mr. Romney] step out in any direction beyond what the establishment favors on foreign policy or any other area,” Mr. Ciruli said.

“I know Republican voters party well and they aren’t for expensive military action unless exigent,” Mr. Lowery said. “They support the troops. They aren’t less patriotic. But this country is retracting. Certainly on the Republican side, the message has become ‘more jobs,’ not ‘more wars.’ “