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Perry says he's ready to go the distance in 'marathon' campaign


SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- With less than 48 hours to go until the Iowa caucuses become fodder for the history books, Texas Gov. Rick Perry says that the "marathon" of the presidential race is actually just beginning.

"This is the first, let's say, mile one of the marathon," Perry said during a Caucus Eve appearance in Sioux City. "I've run a marathon before. I felt great at mile one. As a matter of fact I felt pretty great at mile 17 and 18. At mile 21 you kinda start hitting that wall a little bit. And we'll see who's still running at mile 21."

"I finished my marathon," asserted Perry, an avid runner who says he tries to lace up his track shoes at least four times a week. "And I expect to finish this marathon as well."

The argument continues a case that the campaign has been making privately to potential supporters but that Perry himself did not publicly assert until this morning: that Perry's campaign -- unlike socially conservative rivals Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum -- has the nationwide infrastructure and fundraising ability necessary to go the distance and win the GOP nomination.

The campaign hopes that his 1,500 Iowa precinct captains and throngs of out-of-state volunteers will help boost the candidate above the fourth or fifth place finish predicted in recent polls. Exceeded expectations could remind disappointed supporters of the organizational and financial muscle flexed by Perry's campaign before a series of poor debate performances tempered his brief status as the campaign's frontrunner.

The candidate was introduced Monday by onetime presidential hopeful Steve Forbes and was joined by a throng of Texan lawmakers and supporters in addition to about 100 Iowans at a rustic hotel festooned with taxidermic creations.

Perry, who yesterday appeared publicly only for a brief visit toa West Des Moines church, exhibited renewed energy Monday as he echoed past swipes at rivals Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

"I understand what pork-barrel politics is all about. I scratch your back, you scratch mine," he said of Santorum, whose past earmarking is also the target of a new web ad by the campaign. "That is not conservative governing, That is fleecing America and it's gotta stop."

But, as usual, Perry saved his harshest language for the man whose job he's eying.

"America, on the cusp of bankruptcy?" he asked incredulously. "Because [Barack Obama] truly believes if you print enough money that you'll create jobs. And we will expose him for the fraud that he is every day," he said. "I look forward to the opportunity."