MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry came Saturday to this tony island where his top rival, Mitt Romney, spent summers growing up, to offer himself as the valiant leader that he says the Republican Party needs.
“No other candidate on that stage has the record that I have,” Perry said. “Yep, there may be slicker candidates and there may be smoother debaters, but I know what I believe in. And I’m gonna stand on that belief every day. I will guide this country with a deep, deep rudder.”
Perry is trying to make up for his uneasy debate performance in Orlando on Thursday night. Borrowing a line from President Ronald Reagan, Perry declared: “It is time for bold, bright colors, not pastels.”
Perry never mentioned Romney by name, but it was clear to the hundreds of Republican donors and officials at the biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference who he was referring to as “pastels.”
It was also clear that Perry was far away from home here, receiving only light applause for more provocative lines. He was addressing a luncheon in the main dining hall of the historic Grand Hotel, which indeed was resplendent with pastels everywhere — soft green chairs, a sea-foam ceiling, peach walls, yellow and pink flowery lamp shades and curtains.
Michigan, and Mackinac Island in particular, is Romney’s home turf. The former Massachusetts governor was born and raised in Michigan (his father, George, served three terms as the state’s governor) and spent Saturday on the island meeting privately with supporters and donors, as well as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who has not endorsed in the presidential race. Romney plans to address the Mackinac conference during the dinner program.
Perry, in a 15-minute address here — nearly twice as long as his typical stump speeches — tried to introduce himself as a decisive and passionate leader who will help create jobs in America as he has in Texas. He recalled a recent encounter with a voter:
“I said, ‘Ma’am, if I’m the president of the United States, I will promise you one thing: the double boots of over-taxation and over-regulation will be off of your neck.’ And that is what people want to hear.”
Perry tried to establish his familiarity with Michigan. He told the audience about how his father once came to the state to buy a new GMC pick-up. And after she gave him a glowing introduction, Perry called Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) “the Chevrolet of congresswomen — like a rock, you are there.”
Arriving at Mackinac by ferry, Perry said, his travel companions kept telling him, “don’t mispronounce the island’s name.”
And indeed, he pronounced it right (MAK-in-aw).
“It is an honor to be in Mackinac Island,” Perry said. “A beautiful place.”