ABC's Arlette Saenz and Michael Falcone report:
WATERLOO, Iowa — On his second day as a presidential contender, Rick Perry arrived in Iowa saying that his “prayer” was that another Republican would emerge as the clear front-runner for the Republican nomination, but he decided to run when that didn’t happen.
“I want to tell you this wasn't something that I felt compelled to do six months ago or even three months ago and my prayer was always that one of the people in the group would just explode out there and take it out and everybody in America can get behind them but that hadn't happened,” Perry said at a local Republican Party event here. “And, you know, my wife basically said listen our country is in trouble and you need to do your duty, and that was a pretty clarion call for me.”
Perry’s wife, Anita, is accompanying Perry on his tour of three crucial nominating states — South Carolina, where he announced his campaign for president on Saturday; New Hampshire, where he campaigned this weekend; and Iowa, where the Texas governor is opening a three-day swing Sunday night.
Perry is making his Iowa debut as a presidential candidate at the same event where two of his rivals — Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum — will also speak. Bachmann is coming off her first-place finish in the Ames Straw Poll on Saturday.
Santorum, who finished fourth in the straw poll, entered the Electric Park Ballroom in Bachmann’s hometown of Waterloo minutes before Perry, but many in the crowd as well as the dozens of national and local press who are also in the room immediately flocked to Perry’s side when he entered the room.
Perry worked the room for about a half-hour, talking to Iowans and shaking hands.
“We've just gone through an almost three year experience with the American economy that's gone tragically bad,” Perry said in a conversation with Iowans at the Black Hawk County Lincoln Day Dinner. “I think there are a lot of independents and even some democrats who are going to take a look at the options here and go you know what — there was an interesting clarion call of hope and change that people went for it and it is quite a disaster economically and frankly foreign policy wise too.”
Perry also greeted Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was at the dinner event, and assured him that he would “be here often” as he campaigns for president.
ABC's Steven Portnoy, Polson Kanneth and Katie Bosland contributed reporting.