With just seven weeks before the Jan. 3 caucuses in Iowa, which will begin the nominating contest, the race appears to have tightened. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), buoyed by a string of solid debate performances, has vaulted to the top tier. In Iowa, he is in a four-way statistical tie for the lead with Cain, Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), according to a Bloomberg News survey released early Tuesday.
Despite Perry’s ambitious television advertising campaign in Iowa, a state his campaign says he must win, the poll put him in fifth place, with 7 percent support. So with his candidacy on the line, Perry traveled to Iowa to announce a far-reaching government reform agenda that seemed as unachievable as it was bold.
Perry cast himself as a radical change agent and tried to portray his rivals, Romney in particular, as “tinkering-around-the-margins” managerial types. Perry said he would eliminate lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary. And, calling lawmakers “creatures of Washington,” he said he would effectively transform Congress into a part-time institution by cutting congressional salaries and office budgets in half.
“I don’t believe that Washington needs a new coat of paint; I think the whole place needs to be overhauled,” Perry said. “I’m a true believer that we need to uproot, tear down and rebuild Washington, D.C., and our federal institutions.”
Perry said he would champion a constitutional amendment to institute 18-year terms for the Supreme Court, staggered every other year, and said judges would be replaced in order of seniority.
Speaking to supporters at a manufacturing plant in Bettendorf, Iowa, Perry showcased his new ideas to turn around his campaign after a series of damaging debate performances that included a particularly painful gaffe last week in Michigan.
If elected, Perry said, he would privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and eliminate or restructure the menu of federal agencies.
“I’m unique to the Republican field,” he said. “I’ve never been an establishment figure. I’ve never served in Congress. I’ve never been a part of an administration. I’ve never been a paid lobbyist. My career has been that of a Washington outsider.”
But Perry is not a political novice. He has served in elected office in Texas since 1985, leading the Romney campaign to dub him a “career politician.”
But on the campaign trail, Romney has ditched his Perry attacks, a sign that he considers the Texan less of a threat. During his visit to Columbia on Tuesday, Romney criticized Obama for having what he described as a pessimistic view of U.S. ingenuity and economic ambition.