WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Facing a likely defeat in Tuesday’s caucuses, Rick Perry encouraged supporters to keep the faith as his advisers looked to the coming contest in South Carolina as the first real test of his presidential campaign.
Perry visited with volunteers early in the day in hopes of buoying their enthusiasm in the face of public and private polling that indicated he would be sorely disappointed when the results are announced Tuesday night.
The Texas governor compared caucus day to a military campaign.
“This is Concord. This is Omaha Beach,” he said, referencing past conflicts. “This is going up the hill, realizing that the battle is worthy. This is about sacrifice. Every man and woman has sacrificed your time, your treasure, your reputation. But you’re doing it out of love for this country. That is what gets us up every day, gives us the courage, the fortitude, the focus to go do what we have done for the last almost six months.”
Perry entered the race in August to great fanfare but, faced with a compressed timeline, proved unable to sustain the sizzle.
On Tuesday, he urged supporters to stick with him and pointed to his 16-year courtship of his wife, Anita. At the same time, his advisers began casting the Iowa contest as a practice run for states to come, specifically the South’s first primary in South Carolina on Jan. 21.
“She was a hard sell, folks. If it’s 16 years to talk her into marrying me, then however (many) months we need to do to talk Americans into our vision, that’s what we’re going to do,” Perry said, suggesting an exit from the campaign at this stage was unlikely.
Perry also tried to encourage supporters a day earlier.
“When we win the big Iowa caucuses tomorrow, that’s the only one that matters,” the candidate boomed in Perry, Iowa.
But that was a longshot prediction, if the public and private polls are correct.
The final Des Moines Register poll, released Saturday, showed Perry at 11 percent and trailing four rivals with Mitt Romney and Ron Paul in a dead heat.
The Texas governor made a last-minute push Tuesday to avoid an embarrassing finish. He met with volunteers and then planned to rally potential caucus-goers at separate town hall events.
Perry’s team also was planning events in South Carolina for Wednesday and hoping a jumbled pecking order would emerge from Iowa’s caucuses.
“We didn’t come into this race lightly. We came into it with both feet on the ground,” Anita Perry told supporters in morning pep talk that reflected the dour mood. “You know what we’ve learned through this? Loyalty and friends. That’s what gets you through it.”