MUSCATINE, Iowa - As the media is on its toes waiting for his next gaffe, Rick Perry admitted he often sends a prayer to the heavens so he won't slip up and see another one of his mistakes on national TV.
"I prayed right before I walked over here that I wouldn't make any mistakes that my friends in the media would be able to put on television," Perry said as he stared down the back row of reporters at a campaign event here while the crowd laughed. "I pray a lot because I'm prone to make a lot of mistakes."
Perry, a self-described "man of faith," has barnstormed the state in the past seven days, selling his accomplishments as governor of Texas and his Christian values while promoting taking faith into the public arena. A voter at the packed, 150-person meet-and greet-at the Button Factory Woodfire Grill asked Perry, who was joined by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, where he stands on putting God back into America.
"God had never left," said Perry to applause in the room. "He's still here. He's still available."
Going tieless in a blue button-down shirt under a grey suit, Perry, who is celebrating his 11th year as governor of Texas today, was at ease, sprinkling jokes into the serious components of his stump speech. As he blasted government officials for showing more concern for Wall Street than Main Street, Perry assigned a new nickname to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"They should call it not necessarily Freddie and Fannie. I call it modern-day Bonnie and Clyde," Perry quipped. "They are stealing from the people, is what's going on."
The first leg of Perry's bus tour wraps up Thursday, but the Texas governor's foray into retail politics has allowed him to engage in the up-close contact Iowa voters crave, a part of campaigning at which Perry excels.
Perry squatted down to come face-to-face with a chubby-faced seven-month-old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby girl named Liliana, who was wearing a purple bow that matched her purple pants.
"Baby blue," Perry said as he peered into her eyes and the girl giddily smiled.
Her father, Ethan Anderson of West Liberty, thanked Perry for his stance on immigration as Perry told him, "It's all about her man."
Perry closed his speech with a line that has become a staple at each of his events on this 44-stop bus tour.
"So let me finish with this. You have my back on January the third, and I will have your back for the next four years in Washington, D.C," said Perry while the crowd roared with applause.
And as he signed bumper stickers and greeted voters before heading to his next event, one voter approached Perry to relay one message: "We've got your back."