DES MOINES – At the Valley High School fieldhouse – covered in the banners of past victories and exclamations of “GO TIGERS!” – Precinct 211 caucus chairman Jim Arneson tallied the votes of his neighbors and friends.
This was one of 1,800 sites across Iowa where residents gathered to vote for their favorite GOP presidential hopeful.
Precinct 211, home of the Tigers, had about 180 people cast their votes in the Republican caucuses. About 39 percent of them voted for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Greg Hutton was not one of those 39 percent. He spoke for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“Until 2007, I was a-political, but once Obama started this country on a socialist way, I became involved in politics to make certain that these people get our country back,” said Hutton, moments before urging the crowd to back his candidate.
Although Perry finished fifth out of seven GOP candidates, pulling only 10 percent of the vote, supporters from Texas and beyond came to Iowa to help their friend.
Earlier Tuesday, Perry supporters gathered at his Iowa headquarters to meet with the press.
“We have five times more businesses leaving California this year than last year, and guess where they’re going? Texas.” said Dan Logue, an assemblyman from California.
Other supporters trumpeted his personal traits and cited his military service, noting he was the only one of the candidates to have voluntarily served.
“What makes me a Rick Perry supporter is that we’re friends since 1985, and I haven’t seen him be anything but moral, ethical and honest. That’s what this country needs,” said Randall Riley, who served with Perry in the Texas legislature from 1985 to 1989.
Patrick Burke, a 55-year-old Iowa resident with terminal Mesothelioma, said he has been a Perry supporter for eight months – since his terminal condition was first diagnosed.
“If I’m gonna die, I’m not gunna do it with Obama in office, and if I am gonna die, I want to die with the best possible person in that office,” said Burke.
He said he supports Perry’s position on immigration and his integrity, too.
“Rick Perry doesn’t change his message to try and be more like what people want,” said Curt Hagman, Republican floor leader in the California House.
Not everyone who heard Perry’s message agreed.
At a speech at Nationwide Insurance Agency’s Downtown Iowa headquarters, Perry spoke to a crowd that was only partly receptive to his message. Closed to the public, the speech was presented to Nationwide employees and members of the press.
Nationwide employees Casey Clark and Stephanie Bunting said they found some of Perry’s platforms offensive and called his speaking erratic.
“He seemed to get lost in his answers,” Clark said.