Rick Perry needs a fourth-quarter comeback to win in Iowa. So at the GOP debate in Sioux City on Thursday night, he compared himself to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who has captured the attention of NFL fans by leading his team to six consecutive wins, several in last-minute fashion.
In the first moments of the Fox News Channel debate, as the candidates each made the case for why he or she should be the Republican nominee, Perry quickly invoked Tebow. But the Texas governor, still foundering in the polls, wasn’t simply trying to hook his wagon to a football star. He was also giving a coded shout-out to the religious conservatives so crucial to his candidacy in Iowa and elsewhere.
Perry has courted those voters with increasing frequency, releasing a controversial campaign ad last week that objected to service in the armed forces by openly gay men and women. Tebow, a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the University of Florida, is widely known to be a born-again Christian.
Tebow has been criticized by some for an unorthodox style of play. Perry, who has struggled at some of the GOP debates, sees a kindred spirit.