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August 14. 2011 7:56PM

In Manchester, Perry says voters feeling frustrated

MANCHESTER — After sitting next to a possible future United States President, Evan Couture of Greenland was all smiles Sunday afternoon.

“It was a great experience,” he said after he and his parents, Len and Michelle, had lunch with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who formally announced his candidacy for President in New Hampshire Saturday. “It was overwhelming.”

Perry briefly attended the New Hampshire Energy Freedom Festival at McIntyre ski area in Manchester, which attracted about 350 people to an event designed to provide a fun day out for members of the New Hampshire Energy Forum.

Perry said he entered the race out of “a duty to serve my country. And our country is in trouble.”

When asked in a swarm of reporters about fellow Republican primary contender and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s victory in Saturday’s Iowa straw poll, Perry said he believed that people were not voting out of anger.

“I think there’s a lot of frustration,” Perry said. “People want their elected officials to listen to them. It seems like we have a federal government that’s not working for the people. It’s the other way around. I share their frustration. I want to make Washington as inconsequential in our lives as possible.”

Perry’s entry into the crowded field of Republican candidates came one day before Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, withdrew from the race. Perry said he hopes to win the endorsement of Pawlenty, whom Perry called a good friend.

“He is one of my favorite governors out there. And I’ll tell you all something, he is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met in my life,” Perry said. “I told him, ‘Dad gummit, I was looking forward to getting out there and jousting with you.’ He said, ‘Yeah, and I would have kicked your tail, too.’”

The race thus far has seen Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, consistently leading the polls, and Perry was asked about some headlines that referred to him as Romney’s “worst nightmare.”

“I hope I’m not anybody’s worst nightmare,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to a spirited race.”

Besides Romney, Perry and Bachmann, the Republican primary field includes businessman Herman Cain, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, of Michigan. Other possible candidates include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom have yet to declare their candidacy but have consistently ranked above many declared candidates in the polls.

During lunch, the Coutures, who met Perry when he announced his candidacy at the Greenland home of state Rep. Pamela Tucker, presented the Texas governor with a basket of New Hampshire goodies, including maple syrup, a New Hampshire hat and kettle corn.

“I told him we expect him to wear the New Hampshire hat the next time he’s here,” Len Couture said.

Perry’s visit had nearly all the trappings of a campaign stop at a local event. He ate lunch with the Coutures at an open table where the media were able to get plenty of photographs. He complimented the catering service, Celebrations Catering of Nashua, on making a “mean hamburger.” He posed for photos, including at least one with a small girl. He shook some hands.

One of those hands belonged to Betty Dawson of Manchester, who brought her grandchildren to the energy fair, which featured carnival rides, a barbecue and live music from The Tom Dixon Band. She said she was glad she got the chance to ask Perry about veterans services.

“It was all right,” she said of her encounter, in which Perry said he was the commander-in-chief for 20,000 National Guardsmen in Texas and agreed with her that veterans services can’t be compromised. “I felt it was good to have someone say they stand up for the military. He seems like a nice guy.”


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