Perry's aides are shrugging off his current standing in the polls, asserting that the governor will begin to improve his numbers once he officially enters the race and shares his story. And Perry is relying on veterans to play an important role in doing that.
A handful of military veterans will join Perry on the trail in Texas and Iowa as he kicks off his campaign over the next several days. One of those is former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who wrote a memoir called Lone Survivor that was adapted into a movie in 2013. Since the two met in 2007, Perry has served as a father figure to Luttrell as he's readjusted to life outside of the military. Joining them this week is Taya Kyle, the widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who was portrayed in the 2014 film American Sniper.
On top of Perry's announcement speech on Thursday, Luttrell, Kyle, and several other veterans will accompany Perry at two motorcycle-themed events in Iowa on Saturday. One is Sen. Joni Ernst's inaugural "Roast and Ride," which will feature six other GOP presidential hopefuls. The other is a fundraiser—dubbed the "Ride with Rick"—not for Perry's campaign, but for the Puppy Jake Foundation, a charity that provides service dogs for wounded veterans. Perry is also bringing Luttrell and a number of other veterans, like Medal of Honor recipient Mike Thornton, with him as he travels to New Hampshire on Sunday and South Carolina on Monday, a visit that will include a stop at the USS Yorktown.
The veterans and military families Perry has befriended over the years are expected to lend a hand throughout the campaign at rallies and one-on-one meetings with voters.
"For us, this isn't theory. We know the importance of having somebody in the White House who understands what we go through and that we trust implicitly," said Dan Moran, a retired Marine and longtime Perry supporter. "That network is there ready to support him and ready to have a real commander in chief in the Oval Office."
And for those who aren't veterans, Perry's allies think that putting these relationships he has built on display will help voters more easily relate to the governor.
"It's a good story to tell. It helps people to better understand him," said Henry Barbour, a longtime friend of Perry's. "And he needs that. He certainly needs to grab people's attention to be successful."
Perry's military chops are also helping him win support in the world of fundraising, where he is facing fierce competition for dollars from other presidential contenders with Texas ties, including Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Judith DuBose, a veteran from Houston who was a bundler for Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign, said Perry's military experience is the main reason she's backing him in 2016.
"I was really looking at Ted Cruz. I've known both men. I've met with both men and I've talked with both men," DuBose said. "What made me make the decision is that Rick Perry has a veteran policy and a veteran mission."