Aside from an emphasis on retail politics, Team Perry continues to tout the Governor’s record in Texas as a major selling point. “Every time [Gov. Perry] comes to New Hampshire and talks about what he’s accomplished in Texas, we sign up literally hundreds of people to be part of this campaign,” another aide explains. Asked if Perry’s thoroughly Texan flair might limit his appeal with infamously reserved New Englanders, Perry aides insist they aren’t concerned. The real “uphill battle,” they say, involves the calendar and basic logistical blocking and tackling. Revisiting a recurring theme, they outline the challenge of competing with Romney’s campaign infrastructure that has been operating in one way or another for at least four years.
“It’s August 13th 2011 (Perry’s launch date) vs. 2007,” Young says. Indeed. Every day counts, which helps explain why the Perry camp seems aggrieved by rumors that New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary could vault ahead to as early as December 6th. “That wouldn’t be ideal,” Young deadpans, in a piece of classic New England understatement.
Nevertheless, Perry’s campaign professes optimism in the face of multiple state polls showing Romney holding dominant leads. Staffers direct me to a recent WMUR poll, which put Romney ahead of his closest rival (Herman Cain) by 25 points. “The numbers look great for Mitt, but if you look a little closer, you’ll notice that 89 percent of respondents say they’re not ‘dead set’ on their pick,” an aide notes. “[Romney] has been here for five years. Why is his support so soft?”
Prior to the Dartmouth debate, the Romney campaign got a boost by unveiling a marquee endorsement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Perry’s New Hampshire team seems neither surprised, nor impressed, by the alliance. “Endorsements only go so far,” Young says. “Policy positions and results matter more.” Another staffer shrugs, “Romney and Christie are both Northeastern moderates. Christie could end up being a liability [for Romney], actually. He’s soft on guns, soft on life…the only thing he’s strong on is his own voice.”
Perry aides say they’re not interested in sweating day-to-day horserace developments, and vow not to fall victim to media pressure. Some pundits wondered if Perry would reveal his own big-name endorsement to counter Romney’s Christie nod. Others have asked why Perry hasn’t released a specific jobs plan yet. “We’re rolling out the features of our campaign on our own terms,” I’m told. “We don’t need the media telling us how to run our campaign – no offense to your profession.” In other words, more endorsements are in the pipeline, and the jobs plan will be introduced on the campaign’s preferred timetable. “We’re going to have our economic plan out faster than it took Romney or Cain from the time they announced,” Young confirms. He says phase one of Perry’s jobs plan will be released next week, and the full package will be made public by the end of the year.