Perry tries to repair 'heart' remark; gets help from wife Anita

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on September 28, 2011 at 6:50 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 29 at 8:06 PM

In an interview Wednesday with the conservative magazine Newsmax, Gov. Rick Perry walked back his remark that those who don't support in-state tuition of illegal immigrant children don't "have a heart."

"I probably chose a poor word to explain that," Perry conceded. "I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word, and it was inappropriate."

After attacks on his record, a bad debate, and slipping in the polls, Perry is getting outspoken support from someone breaking into a new role: Anita Perry, the candidate's wife.

She is stepping out and becoming more active than in past state campaigns.

Perry has committed to compete in all the early primary and caucus states, and, of course, he can't be everywhere.

So Mrs. Perry is going in his place and defending him — like she did in Iowa, especially after that last debate performance.

In this new and unfamiliar role as an active campaigner, Texas first lady Anita Perry went to a familiar setting Wednesday morning — a hospital in Des Moines.

She is a nurse by training, and by marriage, she's now her husband's number one defender in the presidential campaign.

"I am not looking for a 'debater-in-chief.' I am looking for a leader and a commander-in-chief that will do the right thing to get our country back on the right track and working again," Anita Perry said.

Mrs. Perry has kept a low profile in state campaigns, often only appearing a major events to introduce the governor.

But with many states to cover and little time in the race to the White House, she is now much more involved. And after Rick Perry's rocky debate performance last week, she candidly defended her husband before Iowa GOP voters.

"He didn't show it the other night, and I think he would tell you that the other night was not his best performance," she conceded. "But he's only going to get better."

Anita Perry said her husband has never had a debate coach, and she's urging him to just be himself. But as the Republican front-runner, she said it's hard for him to stay on-point when so many sharp points are coming at him.

"I think part of the attacks had something to do with it," she said. "I think when you have seven arrows being shot at you and you're the one person in the middle, 30 seconds' rebuttal doesn't give you a lot of time."

Regarding the immigration controversy, Mrs. Perry said it's either educate them or have the children of illegal immigrants go on welfare.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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