Perry-Polk-County-GOPApproximately 365 people attended the Polk County Republican Summer Picnic at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA.  They came out to hear from three presidential hopefuls – Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Michigan Congressman Thad McCotter.

Congressman Paul was the first to speak and it was pretty much his standard fare – discussing personal liberty and fiscal responsibility.  He hit on flat tax, fair tax, and the gold standard.  He spoke out against our involvement in Afghanistan and current foreign policy.  He condemned President Obama’s use of the military in Libya, and advocated getting out of the UN.

One remark that stood out to me was when he said, “I challenge entitlement on principle.  People need to understand what our rights our.  People who feel entitled do not have a right to our money.”  Amen.  He said that if we would follow the Constitution once again that would solve many of our problems today.  Regarding monetary policy he said “people are paying attention more, not because I’m making better speeches.”  Amen again.  He had the longest speech of the evening at 17 minutes and 11 seconds.

You can watch his speech below:

Governor Perry spoke next.  He went after former Iowa Governor, now Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack who said, “food stamps are an economic stimulus.”  Noting that 1 in 8 Iowans are on food stamps, Rick Perry said the only thing food stamps stimulate is dependency.  He said that it is time for a change in our country, but that we don’t need “rhetoric of change” instead we need a “record of change.”  Governor Perry highlighted previous Texas Governors who saw job growth during their administrations, but noted that the growth occurred during times that saw national job growth.  Under his administration he said that Texas has created one million jobs while the U.S.  lost 2.5 million jobs.  That is a contrast I’m sure we’ll be hearing much about from the Perry campaign.  He ended his speech with a pledge, “I’ll work every day to make Washington, DC as inconsequential in your lives as I can.”

You can watch his speech below (I apologize for the gentleman in front of me who partially blocked my shot, I was on a media riser, he could have seen sitting down, but felt like he needed to stand right in front of me.):

Congressman McCotter spoke next, and I really like the guy, but I felt bad that the room pretty much emptied out to follow Governor Perry.  He is a hilarious guy, he started off his speech noting he was assigned a bodyguard.  He said to the volunteer, “You’re my bodyguard?  Dude, I’m from Detroit who is going to protect you from me?”  If you’ve met Congressman McCotter in person as I have you can’t help but feel intimidated by his physical stature, and I always assume *anybody* I talk to from Detroit is packing.  I just thought I’d confess that inherit bias.

Not only is he funny, but I would probably say he’s likely the smartest guy in most rooms he’s in, and last night was no exception.  The money quote from his speech for me was, “America in the 21st Century will demonstrate that it doesn’t exist to emulate the world, but to inspire the world.”  Very good.

The problem for him is that he doesn’t come across as very inspiring.  Intelligent?  Yes! Competent?  Yes! Inspiring? Unfortunately, no.  Congressman McCotter would benefit greatly from a speech writer and a speech coach.  His content was good, but his delivery needs help.  He actually made Ron Paul look like a  speaker superstar.  You can watch his speech below:

A couple of observations about the evening.  First I have to tip my hat to Kevin McLaughlin (party chair) and Dave Funk (party co-chair), Darrell Kearney (fundraising guru) and their team of volunteers for putting together a fantastic event.  I heard (but my media credentials didn’t allow me to sample) that the food was excellent, it was a good setting, and the program went smoothly.  I’m especially impressed that it was their fourth event in three weeks.  I knew they’ve had a lot going on, but I didn’t really pay much attention to the spacing of the events.  Good work!

My second observation is about who wasn’t there.  Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s Iowa staff was nowhere to be seen, neither was Herman Cain’s.  Neither was Newt Gingrich’s staff, but then again he hardly has any staff.  Why would their Iowa-based staff miss out on an opportunity to meet with 365 or so activists?  That’s mindboggling.  I think everyone understands that their candidates are off to New Hampshire and South Carolina for awhile, but their Iowa staff should be attending county party fundraisers.  Mitt Romney had a couple of people there, Rick Santorum’s state coalitions guy, Jamie Johnson, was there.  Organize for Palin was there.  There’s no excuse.

And third, people came out last night for Governor Perry, and he is head and shoulders above the rest of the field with retail politicking.  His speech was ok, but where I think he impresses people here is with the time he takes to meet and greet people and listen to their questions.  That is a big part of what it will take to be successful in Iowa.

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