On The Road

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

Well, that's two states down, at least one more to go.

I'm flying out of Manchester today for the final time. I'll join up with Governor Rick Perry, who is already campaigning in South Carolina. His dismissal of the fist primary state was obvious over the weekend. After both of the two weekend debates here, there were just a couple of reporters waiting to talk with Perry surrogates in the debate "Spin Room."

Photo by Ben Philpott/KUT News

The reporters covering Rick Perry's presidential campaign have, from time to time, complained about a lack of advance notice from the campaign on events. There have been instances of last-second news conferences called where the national media have been unable to attend. And even on a good week, reporters only found out about campaign stops about seven days ahead of time.

Photo by Ben Philpott/KUT News

Today ends the Rick Perry Faith, Jobs and Freedom bus tour.

Well, mostly...

This was supposed to be the end, but the campaign added a final day, January 2nd, to the tour. That final blitz will see the governor finally visit Perry, Iowa, A town the Texas Tribune's Emily Ramshaw and I visited on our own back in September while following Perry on the campaign trail.

Photo by Ben Philpott/KUT News

The latest polls from Iowa have Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich essentially in a tie. Each candidate is within striking distance of 3rd place. And each could just a easily finish 5th.

And you can see the optimism in the Perry campaign staff. A little most jump in their step and a little more seriousness as they go about their work.

You can also see it in the number of reporters covering Governor Perry.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

The two weeks leading up to Christmas are usually filled with holiday parties and last minute shopping trips. But not if you’re on a bus far from home, trailing a presidential candidate through another state. 

photo courtesy the Rick Perry Campaign for KUT News

Today is the final day of campaigning for Rick Perry before Christmas. We’ll make three stops today...then back to Des Moines for flights back home. (Some of the reporters are heading to Zombie Burger tonight, one of the press corps favorite Des Moines hang outs.)

So here’s a round-up of some of the towns we saw along the trail this week – and what each is famous for.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

So I’ve been on the Rick Perry "Faith, Jobs and Freedom" bus tour for almost a week now. The number of reporters has fluctuated during the trip, but we’ve there's been 7 news organizations on the bus the whole trip. ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, The Des Moines Register, Texas Tribune and KUT.

So for this week’s edition of the KUT/Texas Tribune Tribcast, we’re recording from the back of the bus. Going over what we’ve seen, how the campaign is doing and what we expect come caucus night.

The days on the Rick Perry bus tour are packed for the candidate – and for the press corps packed on the bus behind him.

After each event, reporters jump back on their bus and try to write, edit video and audio, and post updates, blogs and reports to the web. Then it’s back off the bus for another event. The cycle repeats itself about four or five times a day.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

At just about every campaign  stop, there's a table set up to collect names, e-mails, phone numbers and, of course, voting pledges. In return, people can pick up a bumper sticker or yard sign, even a t-shirt if they promise to caucus for Rick Perry.

The governor's 4th stop today, at Cabin Coffee Co. in Clear Lake, provided a new entry.

Rick Perry's Freedom and Liberty blend coffee

Now you couldn't get it just by pledging to vote. It cost $8 for a half pound, $13 for a whole pound.

Governor Rick Perry has been billing himself as an "outsider" during his 2nd look, 2nd chance bus tour through Iowa. At almost every stop he has called his opponents the opposite: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a Washington D.C. insider and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is a Wall Street insider.

This morning Perry took another tack: calling Gingrich "the grandfather of Congressional earmarks." (The Texas Governor took a swipe at Texas Congressman Ron Paul, too, calling him an "earmark insider").

Photo by Ben Philpott/KUT News

So as we head into tonight's Fox News debate in Sioux City Iowa, let's go over what's happened in the past week:

Photo by Ben Philpott, KUT News

Sixteen days will determine Rick Perry's fate in the Iowa Caucus. The Perry campaign will make close to 50 campaign stops during a barnstorming bus tour across Iowa. It looks like the tour ends January 3, although the last three days have several "to be determined" listings.

There are twelve reporters on the bus, with a Dallas Morning News reporter following in a rental car. I think most of them have been looking forward to this trip.  This could provide us with the best access we've had to Perry throughout the whole campaign. Or Perry could stay at arm's length after every event. We'll see.

Photo by Jay Root for KUT News

UPDATE: After leaving the Perry headquarters Jay Root and I did find national campaign manager Rob Johnson. What I was trying to say in the original post was that showing up at the HQ unannounced was fruitless. But we did get an interview with Rob, which you can hear part of in this morning's story.

Sorry for any confusion.


When covering a political campaign, from President down to city council, there are a limited number of chances to interview the candidate and his staff - usually before or after big events.

But when you want to rock the boat and get a comment outside of those specific times, GOOD LUCK...

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

After last night's steady debate performance, Governor Rick Perry made a quick stop at an evangelical mega-church outside of Des Moines today in another attempt to court Iowa’s Christian conservatives.

Speaking at two services this morning at the Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Perry spent his time trying to connect with voters by sharing his personal history, starting with his childhood in the small Texas crossroads of Paint Creek. He told the crowd his family didn’t have much money, and his mother made most of his clothes.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

If you're every wondering who the current GOP front-runner is, just watch a debate.

Six Republican presidential hopefuls took the stage for the ABC News debate at Drake University in Des Moines Iowa Saturday night. But it was Newt Gingrich who took most of the punches. ABC moderators George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer didn't help the former speaker, aiming many of the debate's questions at Gingrich's policies and campaign statements. 

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

It almost feels like the GOP Presidential campaign has been going on since 2008. There have been 14 major debates and forums since May, and Republican Presidential hopefuls started visiting Iowa so long ago it was still above freezing.

But you could say the race for the Iowa caucus really begins tonight with the ABC News debate at Drake University.

That's certainly the case for Texas Governor Rick Perry. He's got a two week bus tour coming up, and is hoping Iowa voters will give him a second chance. His campaign has shown flashes that it could make a move in the caucus.

But just when you think he's back on the right track... he makes a mistake.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

I'm sitting at gate 18 at Austin's airport waiting for my fight out to Des Moines, Iowa. This trip will take about two weeks. I'll attend two GOP debates, one at Drake University in Des Moines, the other in Sioux City. And follow Gov. Perry on an eight day tour of the state that will include multiple stops and towns each day.

This is the start of the governor's last attempt to get Iowa voters to give him a second chance. Perry will also criss-cross the state immediately after Christmas until caucus day January 3 (That will be "The Final Push Pt. 2).

Based on media coverage this week, Perry may be starting the trip off on the wrong foot. His campaign ad titled "Strong," which disparages gays in the military, has received harsh criticism.

I finally get back to covering the campaign this Friday. Gov. Rick Perry and the rest of the GOP presidential field have two debates coming up in Iowa.

All of the major candidates, except John Huntsman who has a "New Hampshire or Bust" campaign, will be living in the Hawkeye state until caucus day January 3.

Which means I'll be living there too, minus three days back in Austin for Christmas. So I've started packing for the trip.

Picture courtesy Texas Tribune for KUT

Much of the GOP primary coverage out of Texas has been focused on the campaign of Governor Perry, which you can explain by his dramatic entry and ascension to the top of the GOP field.

But as Perry has become an afterthought in recent national and state polls, Ron Paul and his followers have begun to wonder why they aren't getting more attention.

Paul ranked second in the most recent Des Moines Register poll released last week, sandwiched in between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

The Register has a great story up today talking about what each of the top three needs to do to pull out a win in Iowa. Number one on Paul's list: grow his base. The Texas Congressman's 18 percent support in the poll isn't likely to decline, because the people who like Paul, love him. They aren't likely to change their minds between now and the caucus. But he'll need to add supporters if he wants to win.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News.

The "comeback" scenario for Texas Governor Rick Perry usually has him being able to outlast other candidates and be the last man standing between Mitt Romney and the nomination. Perry is believed to have enough money to get through January. Most of the others definitely don't.

So for Perry, having Herman Cain drop out of the race today, should give him a little boost going into the Iowa caucus.