A lot has been made of the handful of protesters who greeted Rick Perry at Popovers on the Square in Portsmouth, N.H. — including this appalling woman who used her son to question Perry on evolution (“Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science,” she whispers in the boy’s ear while Perry gets low, looks the boy in the eye and forthrightly answers his questions).
I spent the day on the campaign trail with Perry, and was there at Popovers on the Square when Perry arrived. I can report that the governor handled himself with grace throughout, and he made a strong impression on many of the New Hampshire voters he encountered. One young Republican told me afterwards, “He's an excellent retail campaigner, that’s for sure. We yelled ‘gig ’em,’ which is a Texas A&M chant, and he comes right over and puts hand around my shoulder and talks with us for a couple of seconds.”
A young Democrat who is supporting Obama also came away impressed, telling me, “A lot of people want to like Mitt Romney but they find him too slick. Perry’s a cowboy, and there’s an element of libertarian New Hampshire that has a little respect for that. I think New Hampshire is the state for Rick Perry and I think he can sell his message here.”
For his part, the owner of Popovers told me that he has been hosting candidates for years and that Perry was by far the most charismatic politician who had ever visited the store. Perry also made an impression on the folks at Epoch Homes later in the day. One of the workers, Dave Quinn, is a registered independent who is leaning toward Perry. “I like his big push on deregulation,” he said. The owner of the company, John Ela, agreed, saying he liked Perry’s promise to make Washington as “inconsequential” as possible in peoples’ lives. All in all, a successful day on the campaign trail. I’ll have more firsthand reporting on Perry’s first week in the race in my Monday column.