Phaedra Singelis / twitter.com
Phaedra Singelis / twitter.com
Rick Perry thanks his supporters in Iowa and announces he is reassessing his campaign and heading home to Texas.
This story was updated at 1:25a.m. ET
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Texan is going home.
After a disappointing fifth place finish in the Iowa caucuses Tuesday night, Gov. Rick Perry announced that he will return to his home state to assess the future of a campaign that remained stalled for months despite prolific ad spending and a frenzied eleventh hour bus tour in the Hawkeye State.
"With the voters' decision tonight in Iowa, I decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race," Perry told several hundred supporters gathered in the West Des Moines hotel that served as the team's nerve center this week.
Perry briefly choked up when reading aloud a letter from a supporter who drove from Texas to Iowa to support him.
Unlike his final Iowa campaign events - when he surrounded himself with loyal endorsers - Perry was joined only by his immediate family on stage as he thanked his supporters.
"You've made every minute of this worth it for ourselves," he told backers. "And with a little prayer and reflection, I'm going to determine the best path forward, but I want to tell you there has been no greater joy in my life than being able to share with the people of Iowa that there is a model to take this country forward and it is in the great state of Texas."
Aides said that Perry discussed the decision with family, senior aide Joe Allbaugh and communications director Ray Sullivan in his hotel suite after the fifth place finish was projected. Perry himself pushed to make the announcement of his return to Texas on stage rather than through a paper statement.
The next step for Perry will be a powwow with family and advisors as well as a data dive by aides into Perry's performance in the Iowa contest.
"It's going to come down to a calculus of what the Iowa results really said beyond the first snapshot, what resources we have available financially and otherwise and how we read South Carolina and the potential there," communications director Ray Sullivan told reporters.
In the waning days of the Iowa race, the campaign hoped that its ground game would propel the candidate to a surprise third place finish or a close fourth place showing. But public polls and internal surveys saw a stubborn lack of momentum despite more than 50 public appearances for the candidate since Dec 14.
In addition to the weak debate performances and embarrassing gaffes that haunted his campaign, the campaign was also plagued by infighting between its old guard Texas loyalists and more recently added political consultants.
A public announcement of Perry's next step will come no earlier than Thursday, Sullivan said.
Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney eked out a razor-thin victory in Tuesday night’s Iowa Republican caucuses, holding off former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s late-in-the-game-surge to win.
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Jan 3.
After a night that saw the two candidates claim the lead, the GOP announced that Romney beat Santorum by just eight votes to become the apparent winner. Ron Paul finished third.
Romney and Santorum remained virtually tied as returns came back throughout the evening in this cycle's first nominating contest. At the conclusion, each ended up at almost exactly a 25 percent share of the vote.
Chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, Matt Strawn, announced Romney got 30,015 votes and Santorum received 30,007 votes out of a record turnout of 122,255.
The result represented a dramatic closing act by Santorum to cement a furious, last-minute surge during which conservatives rallied around his campaign.
"Game on!" the jubilant ex-senator declared in remarks shortly after midnight.
The results were also humbling to an extent for the Romney campaign, which had appeared so confident in victory that it planned an overnight stay for the candidate in Iowa tonight instead of New Hampshire, where Romney's built a firewall. The former governor had also appeared to predict victory in a Monday night speech.
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U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum addresses an Iowa crowd on January 3.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul finished third, at 21 percent.
Three other candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann had also sought to beat expectations and rejuvenate their candidacies in subsequent primary contests in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Gingrich had the edge, at 13 percent, over Perry (10 percent) while Bachmann finished in sixth, at 5 percent.
Perry said he would take the next few days to re-assess his campaign.
"I've decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race," he said in remarks shortly before midnight.
But the story of the night was Santorum, who managed to rally conservatives, who'd searched desperately throughout the campaign for an alternative to Romney, after other would-be contenders washed out throughout the fall.
Santorum noted "another candidate in this race," referring to Romney, whom pundits viewed as more electable. He paused when a member of his crowd said "RomneyCare," referring to the Massachusetts health reform law Romney had enacted but conservatives deplore for its similarities to President Obama's health care reforms.
"Let me tell you: What wins in America are bold ideas, sharp contrasts, and a plan that includes everyone," Santorum said.
"We are off to New Hampshire," Santorum declared, "With your help and God's grace we'll have another fun night a week from now."
Romney, by contrast, continued to act like the campaign's frontrunner in the evening's last remarks. He congratulated Santorum and Paul on a well-fought campaign, but trained most of his criticism on President Obama.
In the end, Romney essentially matched his vote total from 2008, though he invested much less time and money in Iowa this cycle. But he failed to deliver the knock-out blow that his campaign had hoped for by playing in Iowa, and the results underscore the existing narrative in the campaign, that Romney is struggling to win over skeptical conservatives.
Sensing that Romney is vulnerable, the campaign now seems poised to move into a new phase in which the former Massachusetts governor will suffer more scrutiny.
Gingrich presaged this new phase in his remarks Tuesday evening, in which he vowed to continue his campaign beginning Wednesday in New Hampshire. He assailed Paul and Romney, too, while congratulating Santorum for running a positive campaign, and pointedly noted he wished he could say the same for other candidates, meaning Romney.
"We are not going to go out and run nasty ads," said Gingrich, who labeled Romney a "Massachusetts moderate" again. "But I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative, that may be more of a comment on his record than the nature of politics."
Newt Gingrich addresses supporters in Iowa after finishing outside the top three, emphasizing the need for a national discussion about reforming American governmental institutions and commenting on his fellow competitors.
Santorum punched his ticket out of Iowa in part by emerging as the winner of a virtual game of musical chairs among candidates in Iowa who had themselves as the anti-Romney candidate. The former Pennsylvania senator had campaigned in Iowa the “traditional” way, having started to stump there well before any candidate, and becoming the first candidate to visit all of the state’s 99 counties.
The former Pennsylvania senator performed best among caucus-goers who describe themselves as very conservative, according to entrance poll data. He also won over evangelical Christians and caucus attendees who tabbed social issues as one of their priorities.
Romney had hoped to score a knock-out punch in Iowa after having scarcely competed in the race until later this fall. His campaign is hoping that a late push in Iowa, plus a victory next Tuesday in New Hampshire (where Romney leads in the polls), could all but clinch the nomination.
The Hawkeye State had ended up as Romney’s Achilles Heel in 2008. After having invested heavily in winning the contest, Romney limped out of Iowa after a disappointing second place finish.
Romney tied his 25 percent share of the caucus tally he earned in 2008 by attracting the support of caucus-goers who valued electability and the economy -- core elements of Romney's 2012 message. The most deeply conservative caucus participants shied away from Romney.
In a sign that the establishment was undaunted by Romney's finish, Sen. John McCain -- the 2008 GOP nominee and Romney's sparring partner from that cycle -- was set to back Romney on Wednesday in New Hampshire.
The results raise the stakes for the primary in New Hampshire, scheduled for Jan. 10, and two subsequent primaries in South Carolina and Florida in the second half of this month.
There are two debates scheduled for this coming Saturday and Sunday, which might provide the springboard for a new, naster stage of the campaign, with the scrutiny focused on Romney.
Paul, meanwhile, managed a third place finish by leaning on an unorthodox coalition of libertarian Republicans, young caucus-goers and independents.
"We will go on, we will raise the money," he told supporters this evening. He'll head next to New Hampshire.
Congressman Ron Paul addresses his supporters in Iowa as NBC projects him to place third in the Iowa caucuses.
His campaign, both in 2008 and 2012, has been notable for its intense enthusiasm from supporters and prolific fundraising. And in Iowa, where the strength of a candidate's organization typically correlates with a strong performance, Paul is hoping his well-organized supporters can help secure victory.
But his foes had also assailed his foreign policy views, which emphasize a limited role for the U.S. on the world stage. In a traditionally hawkish party, it’s led some political observers to suggest that Paul might have a difficult time building a broad coalition of support within the GOP.
Michele Bachmann speaks to supporters in Iowa after a poor showing in caucus votes, reiterating her criticisms of President Obama.
Tuesday's results also raise fresh questions about the viability of Perry and Bachmann, who each spent heavily to win only fifth and sixth-place finishes, respectively. Bachmann made no indication of the future of her campaign during remarks late Tuesday evening.
For their parts, Bachmann and Perry have said before tonight they’ll head to South Carolina, which hosts its primary -- the third nominating contest -- on Jan. 21.
In a sign he's playing the long game, though, Romney has scheduled a trip to South Carolina overnight on Thursday and Friday morning. He’s also running ads in the Palmetto State, and announced Tuesday that he’s begun running ads in Florida, which hosts the next primary, as well.
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- With a sense of history on the biggest political day -- to date -- of the 2012 cycle, Texas Gov. Rick Perry today compared the GOP's quest to defeat President Barack Obama to one of the deadliest battles of the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944.
"This election is about stopping a president of the United States and his administration that is abusing the Constitution of this country, that is putting America on a track to bankruptcy," Perry told a hotel ballroom packed with more than 200 volunteers.
"It is a powerful moment in Americans' history, and you are on the front lines," he added. "This is Concord. This is Omaha Beach. This is going up the hill realizing that the battle is worth winning."
Those supporters, who represent 32 states, descended on the Perry team's nerve center at the West Des Moines Sheraton after the Christmas holiday. About 500 of them will fan out to caucus sites today across the state to advocate for the Texas governor.
Introducing her husband, an emotional Anita Perry thanked supporters for their loyalty in a campaign most recently scarred by a Politico article rife with quotes from anonymous staff members who savaged their colleagues for the team's early disorganization.
While Perry has gained few endorsements since his famously devastating debate performance in Michigan back in November, several of his early backers have made the journey to frigid Iowa for the governor's final push.
South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are among the allies on hand.
And they remain loyal -- and on message.
"I will leave it to the pundits to look at polls and campaign staff," Jindal told NBC News. "To be honest with you, I didn't endorse Rick because of the polls. I didn't endorse Rick because of his campaign organization. I endorsed him because of his executive experience and his fiscal conservatism."
PERRY, Iowa -- In the town bearing his name, Governor Rick Perry finally seemed at home.
The Texas governor, now facing the prospect of failing to crack the top tier in a state once predicted to hand him a cakewalk victory, offered perhaps the most fluid and passionate performance of his 42 city bus tour during its final stop.
Perry, who throughout the final weeks of his Iowa campaign has frequently consulted notes during remarks and offered lengthy and tangent-laden answers to questioners, spoke concisely and emotionally Monday night about the dangers of big government and the importance of nominating a GOP candidate who shares social conservatives' "values."
"Why would you settle for anything but an authentic conservative who shares your views and values and will go to Washington DC and not apologize one moment for them?" he asked.
About 200 supporters packed into a ballroom of the Pattee Hotel, offering choruses of "yeah!" and "damn straight" as Perry delivered a punchier version of his typical stump speech.
But his remarks were stripped of their recent direct hits on top rival Rick Santorum, attacks he has delivered over the past week with heavy reliance on rehearsed lines and written notes.
Joined on stage by his family and top surrogates - and introduced by early backers Governors Bobby Jindal and Sam Brownback - Perry won sustained applause from the crowd for his praise of two veterans - Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and former Marine Capt. Dan Moran.
"That's part of what this is all about," he said, appearing briefly to fight tears. "It's about those young men and women. It's about supporting them when they come home."
Perry now approaches a caucus night that will weigh his campaign's organizational muscle against the gaffes, internal sniping, and sluggish response to missteps that have plagued his run.
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."
DES MOINES, IA -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry is reminding Iowa voters that Rick Santorum lost his last statewide contest by an embarrassing double-digit margin, as well as arguing that the former Pennsylvania senator lacks the national organization to win the GOP primary in 2012.
"His ... argument is 'I'm the guy that can win,'" Perry said of Santorum. "He got beat by 18 [percentage] points his last race. I mean this guy has proven that he can't win races when it matters against a liberal Democrat."
Perry, who himself has never lost an election, told NBC's Chuck Todd in an interview on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" that Santorum would also be hurt by his past endorsement of party-switcher Arlen Specter.
"That's a movement conservative? I don't think so" Perry said.
The Texas governor argues that he is the only candidate who can compete with Mitt Romney and Ron Paul in a long nominating process.
"I'm the only one of the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives that are running that actually has the ability to raise the money, to have the organization, to run though and finish the primary process," he said. "Santorum and Bachmann don't."
Perry said his resources will make him competitive in Nevada, Florida, and his home state of Texas.
"At the end of the day, we have the national organization and fundraising capabilities to run through this thing," he said.
COULMBIA, S.C. -- For Rick Perry, the sprint towards South Carolina’s January 21st primary begins not after New Hampshire, but just hours after the winner of the Iowa caucus is announced.
The Texas governor's tour of South Carolina begins on Jan. 4 in Aiken County at 3:30 p.m. with a walk through downtown Aiken followed by a “Rally in the Alley” there. He then travels west to North Augusta (about 15 minutes away from Augusta, Georgia) to meet with voters at Al’s Family Restaurant.
While Perry’s efforts in South Carolina so far have not paid off much (he had 6 percent in a December NBC News-Marist poll of voters here) his campaign is betting that with its evangelical voters and large military community, South Carolina is more fertile ground for a Perry revival than New Hampshire.
Perry’s campaign is not the only one looking to generate early South Carolina buzz. Newt Gingrich, who said earlier this week that South Carolina is a must-win for him (his spokesman later tried to walk that comment back), will start his South Carolina tour in the Upstate on the morning of January 11th, a day after the New Hampshire contest.
Gingrich’s campaign has already announced that he will be in Rock Hill, near Charlotte, N.C, for a town hall at 9 a.m. Later that day, he will be in Spartanburg, another voter-rich Upstate region, for a luncheon with the county Republican Party and a town hall meeting at the Beacon restaurant, a popular stop for presidential hopefuls.
Later that night, Gingrich and his wife Callista will attend a private house party in Greenville, which guests will pay between $500 and $5,000 to attend.
The day before the January 21st vote, Gingrich will participate in a get-out-the-vote rally at Coker College in Hartsville, located in the northeastern Pee Dee region of the state.
And while Jon Huntsman is staking a big claim in New Hampshire, his three daughters will be in Columbia on January 5th as guests on Pub Politics, an Internet talk show hosted by Republican consultant Wesley Donehue, a Bachmann adviser, and Democratic strategist Phil Bailey.
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Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to Iowa voters Friday at The Fainting Goat bar and restaurant in Waverly, Iowa.
MASON CITY, IOWA -- Gov. Rick Perry on Friday appeared to endorse making English the official language of the United States, agreeing with a questioner who put forward a strongly worded defense of the idea.
"I don't know how the rest of the conservatives in the room feel," said a questioner at Perry's last event of the day. "Personally, I'm fed up with seeing the directions on every single product on every single shelf of every single store written in foreign languages. And I'd like to say English should be the official language of government in this country."
"That is a statement. That's not a question. And I can agree with that," Perry responded without elaborating further.
A spokesperson for the governor said that while Perry has in the past been open to changing the law to make English the official language, he has typically said he views other economic and social issues as more pressing matters for legislation.
Perry, accompanied by his wife, daughter and son-in-law, spoke to about 50 Republicans at a fundraiser for the Cerro Gordo County GOP in Mason City. Also in attendance was Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the influential west Iowa conservative whose endorsement has long been sought after by Republican presidential candidates.
King told reporters before the event that he is still not sure whether or not he plans to support a candidate in the race.
"At this point, I just don't know," he said, shrugging.
Asked after his remarks if he'd asked King for his endorsement, Perry joked that the courtship was even more intense than his famously long wooing of his wife Anita.
"I've asked him for his endorsement more times than I asked my wife to get married!" he said.
"I told him I'm going to keep asking," he added.
Every longshot presidential candidate comes to Iowa hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Most never come close, but GOP hopeful Rick Santorum hopes he can buck the odds. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.
WATERLOO, Iowa -- This tune might sound familiar to John McCain.
Gov. Rick Perry continued to hammer rival Rick Santorum over his past support for earmarks Friday, taking a page from the 2008 GOP nominee's playbook by ridiculing individual pork barrel projects of dubious-sounding value.
"Just yesterday, once again, he defended his prolific pork barrel spending," Perry told over a hundred Iowans at Doughy Joey's pizza parlor in Waterloo. "So, Sen. Santorum, just to get a little more specific here, please tell me why you asked taxpayers to support the bridge to nowhere in Alaska. Why did you ask the taxpayers of Iowa to support a teapot museum in North Carolina, an indoor rainforest in Iowa, and the Montana sheep institute? Why were those important enough for you to vote for?"
Earmarks for seemingly trivial projects -- notably the $400 million Ketchikan bridge and the $50 million rainforest center in Coralville, IA (less than 100 miles from Perry's morning visit today) -- were frequent fodder for the anti-spending rhetoric that launched McCain to the 2008 Republican nomination.
Perry's attack continues the volley first deployed by the campaign yesterday in the candidate's appearances and in a new radio ad. In response, Santorum, who has surged above Perry in two recently released polls, defended his past earmarks but said that he would uphold the temporary moratorium placed on the practice in late 2010.
On Friday, Perry also slammed his rival for supporting debt ceiling increases during his time in Congress.
"You voted to raise the debt ceiling 8 times while he was in the United States Senate -- more than doubling the debt in this country from 4.1 trillion to 9 trillion dollars," he said of Santorum. "And I got to ask you, how is that fiscally conservative?"
"Asking a Washington insider to stop runaway spending is like asking a bank robber to guard the vault," he added.
Perry's visit marked a return to the city where he launched his Iowa campaign in August, receiving a raucous welcome at a GOP dinner marked by a comparatively lukewarm reception for Ames Straw Poll winner and Waterloo native Michele Bachmann.
Standing virtually ignored at the back of the event as Perry was mobbed by crowds back then?
A hearing on the request from Texas Gov. Rick Perry for a federal court order to place him on the Virginia primary ballot has been scheduled for Friday, Jan. 13th in Richmond before Judge John Gibney, Jr.
Lawyers for Perry claim that Virginia's stringent requirements to qualify for the ballot froze him out of the March 6 primary.
"Because of the overly burdensome and unconstitutional requirements" of the state's election law, they argue, he was "unable to obtain a sufficient number of signatures from qualified voters to qualify for the Republican Party presidential primary ballot in Virginia. If either the state-residency requirement for petition circulators or the threshold amount of signators is constitutionally unenforceable, plaintiff should be certified for the March 6, 2012 Republican Party primary ballot."
The state requires that those who circulate petitions must be either registered to vote in the state or qualified to do so. Such a rule, however, prevents candidates from using out-of-state volunteers to gather signatures. And Perry points out it prevents even presidential candidates themselves from gathering signatures on their own petitions, unless they happen to be from Virginia.
The court must act soon, Perry argues, "because the deadline to print ballots is in the next two or three weeks."
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Explaining that he's "not a lawyer," Rick Perry on Wednesday said he was unfamiliar with the anti-sodomy case Lawrence v. Texas litigated in part during his time as governor of Texas.
Perry responded to a question about the case, which struck down laws against sodomy in Texas as unconstitutional, with a soliloquy on the dangers of spending; Perry later admitted to reporters that he was unfamiliar with the case.
"And I wish I could tell you I know every Supreme Court case, I don't," Perry said when a voter in Cedar Rapids asked him about the landmark 2003 case that struck down a law criminalizing homosexual activity. "I'm not a lawyer, but here's what I do know: I know they're spending too much money in DC and $15 trillion worth of debt is on the back of that young man right there. And if we don't go in and cut the size of government, court cases aren't going to make one tinker's heck."
"And we can sit here and play 'I gotcha' questions on what about this Supreme Court case or whatever," he continued. "But let me tell you, you know and I know the problem in this country is spending in Washington DC, it's not some Supreme Court case."
Asked by Ken Herman, a journalist with the Austin-American Statesman, after the event if he knew what the case was about, Perry replied "I don't. I think I explained that to him."
The 6-3 decision attracted major public attention and offered a victory for the LGBT community,
Perry appeared in a crowded coffee shop before a raucous crowd of about 200 Iowans who roared approval for Perry's shots at Washington DC "insiders" and President Barack Obama's administration.
Repeating his earlier critiqueof former Sen. Rick Santorum's record on earmarks, an animated Perry declared "I'm calling you out, senator!"
While Santorum received most of Perry's ire Wednesday, Perry also offered a concise appraisal of apparent frontrunner Mitt Romney, even after defending the former Massachussetts governor's family history as the son of a politician.
When a questioner suggested that a Romney presidency could represent a dangerous "dynasty" -- Romney's father served as Michigan governor and ran for president in 1968 -- Perry defended public service "an honorable thing."
"I'm a politician's son," he joked. "My daddy was a county commissioner." Perry also declined to take the bait on the man's suggestion that Romney was from a different "socioeconomic" background but did take the opportunity to slam Romney as inconsistent on key issues.
"I am a consistent conservative. I've always been pro-life. I have always been pro-traditional marriage. I have always been a fiscal conservative. I have never been for global warming. Yeah, me and Mitt are different."