Perry sprints to Iowa caucuses finish, readies for South Carolina

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on January 2, 2012 at 7:50 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 3 at 1:07 AM

DALLAS - On the final day before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, Governor Rick Perry took his sagging campaign to three stops in conservative northwest Iowa. His final stop was fitting: the town of Perry, Iowa.

The Perry campaign pulled out the stops, as hundreds of Texas supporters went to Iowa at their own expense to make calls and do the last-minute ground work to urge voters to support him.

Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and Attorney General Abbott also flew in.

But is it too little too late?

Perry kept up his attacks on the surging Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator who zoomed by Perry in weekend polls.

Perry paints Santorum as a non-conservative on spending and debt.

"I don't understand how you can come to Iowa and say 'I'm a fiscal conservative' when you voted eight times to raise the debt limit," Perry said.

But Perry omits that during Santorum's senate years, while George W. Bush was president, many Texas Republicans including Senators John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Dallas Congressman Jeb Hensarling also voted to raise the debt limit.

Regardless, is the Santorum swipe helping Perry?

His hope for a third-place finish appeared to dim, as the latest Iowa polls put him fifth.

His campaign announced he'll skip New Hampshire and go directly to South Carolina to press on, comparing the race to a marathon.

"I finished my marathon and I expect to finish this marathon as well," Perry said.

Though Perry came in at 2 percent in the latest Suffolk University poll in New Hampshire and the Real Clear Politics poll average in South Carolina puts him at 5.7 percent, Perry says he must stay in, because his opponents don't have what it takes to be the Mitt Romney alternative.

"We're the only one in that race that has those proven conservative values, that has the statewide organization in Iowa, but more importantly, has a national organization, has the ability to raise the money to go all the way through," Perry said.

He finishes up with one more Iowa event Tuesday afternoon in Des Moines. But after Tuesday night's results come in, he won't hang around long.

He's got 11 stops in South Carolina planned from Wednesday through Friday.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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