Rick Perry greets local residents during a campaign stop at the Stoney Creek… (Charlie Neibergall / Associated…)
Reporting from Sioux City, Iowa — Facing weak poll numbers and the very real possibility of a bottom-tier finish in Iowa's kickoff caucuses, Rick Perry on Monday likened the 2012 Republican presidential contest to a marathon that was still in its first mile.
Speaking to supporters in the faux-rustic lobby of a modern hotel near the banks of the Missouri River, Perry said the early stages of a long race are often misleading, and he predicted that other candidates would "hit the wall" later on.
A distance runner before being slowed by back problems, the Texas governor said, "I finished my marathon, and I expect to finish this marathon as well." He said conservatives "don't have to settle for something less than what your values are."
Perry predicted that "every day that goes by, we're going to get stronger," and he called himself the only GOP contender who could combine an outsider message with, "more importantly," an "ability to raise the money to go all the way through."
His upbeat comments came in response to a question from a supporter, who remarked that Perry was "down in the polls" right now and asked what the governor could do to make his candidacy more appealing to voters who want to get behind a winner.
The intense media attention surrounding the caucuses, and a proliferation of public polling that comes out almost daily, has many activists focused on the issue of electability in a year in which defeating President Obama is the most important issue for many GOP voters.
Perry, whose poor early debate performances hurt him, perhaps irreparably, repeated his line about not being the best debater but being so eager to take on Obama in the fall that he would show up early for the debates.
A group of prominent Texans, including state lawmakers and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, joined Perry for the closing hours of the Iowa campaign. They will be traveling along with the candidate, his wife Anita and their two children in a caravan across the most conservative half of the state.
Perry is making three stops in western Iowa on the last full day of campaigning for the caucuses. His final event Monday will be in Perry, Iowa, about an hour northwest of Des Moines, at the meticulously restored Hotel Pattee.
In keeping with what has been so far the most memorable aspect of the Perry candidacy -- verbal gaffes -- the day began with Mike Skaggs, a local Perry campaign leader in Sioux City, thanking the crowd of about 100 or so "for coming out to see the next governor of the United States."
He was followed by publisher Steve Forbes, a Perry supporter and former GOP presidential candidate who finished second in the 2000 Iowa caucuses. "It's my honor and privilege," Forbes said, "to introduce the next president of the United States."