ABC News' Amy Walter (@amyewalter) reports:
AMES, IA – Seven Republican candidates spoke in front of conservative GOP audiences today. Six took the stage in Ames, Iowa to speak to a stadium of Republican activists clad in t-shirts of their preferred candidate.
Meanwhile Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced his candidacy for President on a dais in South Carolina surrounded by American flags at the Red State Conference in a hotel in Charleston, SC.
All seven threw red meat to their audiences – attacks on "Obamacare" and federal spending as well as calls for respect for traditional marriage and an end to abortion.
But, only one, Perry, gave a presidential speech. Focused almost exclusively on the economy and jobs, Perry made the case for his own economic cred while also tearing down Obama's record on the economy.
In Iowa, meanwhile, presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul gave Iowa-centric speeches designed to appeal to an audience of a few thousand Hawkeye activists. The strongest applause lines were those referencing abortion or gay marriage, not jobs or economic issues.
Their goal in Ames was to get the faithful to vote in a straw poll. Perry's was to prove that he can appeal to the broadest swath of GOP voters while also addressing the concerns of independents and not-as-committed Republicans.
Regardless of the outcome this afternoon, Perry won the message war – today. But, it remains to be seen how well he stays on message once he leaves the comfort of the small stage in Charleston and has to get on the national stage next week.