But it's Iowa, and she's a hometown girl, and that gets him an inch. It will be a long road from here to the caucuses.
WATERLOO, Iowa -- The electricity in the Electric Park Ballroom was palpable when Texas Gov. Rick Perry took the stage Sunday night at the Republicans of Black Hawk County Lincoln Day Dinner. Moving away from the podium and holding a handheld-mic, he worked the crowd from his first applause line -- that he had been a 4-H "gold-star boy" -- to the last of a folksy speech that was at turns biographical, combative and policy-oriented. His antics on the stage marked him as a master performer and deft politician who will be able to deliver what will appear to be plain talk on the economy and debt.
It was the sort of performance that made congresswoman Michele Bachmann, daughter of Waterloo and winner of the Ames Straw Poll the day before, seem almost an afterthought when she spoke after him to tepid applause under changed lighting conditions (to give her "a different color temperature," according to her "lighting guy" Kenneth Morton) in the room.
But while Perry certainly won converts from the Cedar Valley area last night -- not to mentioning wowing the national press -- this is Iowa. Things run different here. While the day's chatter at the national level was all about how the GOP presidential primary contest was now a three-way race between Bachmann, Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, in Iowa, the only contenders that mattered were those who were committed to playing on the ground.