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Rick Perry

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a visit in March to the Scott County GOP headquarters in Davenport. 

NEWHALL, Iowa — It’s more than just talk, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry told Benton County Republicans as he laid out his plans for an economic revival that will lead to more jobs and better-paying jobs.

“We’ve got a powerful and positive story to tell,” Perry told about 75 people at a GOP fundraiser in Newhall Saturday night. “It’s not just rhetoric. We’ve seen it done in 12th-largest economy in the world.”

That’s the Texas economy, of course, where the former two-term governor claims credit for policies that helped create more than a million jobs while the rest of the country was losing jobs.

He attributes the economic boom to tax and energy policies that led to job growth, businesses relocating to the Lone Star State and real wage growth.

Lower energy costs and corporate taxes will lead to “the greatest renaissance in manufacturing the world has ever seen,” Perry predicted during his 30-minute speech and question-and-answer session.

His experience as a farmer, Air Force pilot, state legislator and governor will be important as voters think about whom they want to lead the country, Perry said.

“We’re going to be looking for somebody who has had the experiences in life that they can take to the Oval Office and really make a difference,” Perry said. They want someone with an “understanding what it’s like … to do the things you have to do to make a living.”

That’s someone who “understands what you all are going through whether you are a blue-collar union worker who hasn’t seen a wage increase in a decade-plus or a farmer in Iowa who understands what the government is doing to him regulatory-wise, tax-wise and the cost they’re having to accumulate just to get by,” Perry said.

His message was well-received by Benton County Republicans. But Perry, who finished fifth in the 2012 Iowa caucuses with 10.3 percent of the ballots cast, is polling 4 percent now, according to the latest Quinnipiac University Poll. That’s up from 3 percent earlier in the year, but well behind Iowa front-runner Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was the favorite of 18 percent of the likely GOP caucusgoers.

Karen Fesler, a GOP activist from Coralville who backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in 2012, pointed out Walker has less than 20 percent support, “so that means there are 80 percent who are still looking for someone.”

More than six months before the caucuses, the polls reflect who has the most name recognition, and that’s a reflection of who is getting the most time on television, she said.

“It’s events like this that will change that,” Fesler said as she watched Perry speaking individually to a long line of people at the Newhall park pavilion. The event, a fundraiser for state Rep. Dawn Pettengill, R-Mount Auburn, drew about 75 people.

Fesler joined the Perry’s campaign in large part because of his record in Texas.

“It’s that kind of leadership we’re looking for in Washington,” Fesler said. “He’s practical, too.”

She likes the fact Perry is a veteran because “too many of our recent commanders-in-chief haven’t had true military experience,” Fesler said. “Given the current state of affairs, that’s important.”

Pettengill said she wasn’t asked to endorse any candidate, but when she looked at Perry’s service as governor and in the military service and his background in agriculture, she was convinced he’s the right candidate.

“When I looked at everything he’s done as governor, he’s my guy,” Pettengill said.

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