DERRY, N.H. - About a quarter of the seats at a hall here in Derry went unfilled for Rick Perry's fourth event here Tuesday, a fitting end to a long day of campaigning that failed to drum up much enthusiasm.
The Texas governor spent it stumping with Joe Arpaio, the controversial sheriff from Maricopa County, Ariz., who bestowed his endorsement on Perry earlier today at a diner in Amherst, N.H. The seal of approval from Arpaio, nationally known for his efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, was meant to shore up Perry's credibility on that hot-button issue. But the impact of the endorsement may have been minimized by the campaign's decision to roll it out in New Hampshire - a state that borders Canada, not Mexico.
"He spent a lot of time on immigration policy and I'm not sure how relevant that was for New Hampshire voters," said Paul Bakhit, a voter from Nashua, N.H. who came to see Perry at a St. Anselm's College town hall this afternoon. "I wish he would talk more about the economic engine," Bakhit said.
On a day when he might have been positioning himself to take advantage of conservative rival Herman Cain's woes, Perry instead appeared to be striking out in New Hampshire. At one point, he flubbed the date of the election and the legal voting age; at another, his advisers found themselves trying to tamp down rumors of another staff shake up. And the New Hampshire Union Leader - which on Sunday endorsed Newt Gingrich - greeted Perry's arrival in the state with a scathing dissection of his campaign failures by editorial page editor Drew Cline.
"He did more than misspeak. He did more than recklessly attack his own base and generally act like the class bully assigned to spend study hall with the chess club. He did more than forget his talking points and display an uncomfortable lack of knowledge of important topics. He simply suffocated," Cline wrote.
At Perry's first event of the day, Hillsborough County Commissioner Carol Holden, said "there are more important things" to talk about - like the economy. Yet at each event, Perry led off by criticizing the federal government for failing to secure the border.
"I will be a law and order president just as I have been a law and order governor," he said more than once. Perry also announced his own plan to deal with illegal immigrants as he attempted to draw contrasts to the Obama administration's "catch and release" policy. "My policy will be to detain and deport every illegal alien that we apprehend," Perry said.
At most stops, the line drew only awkward silence from the crowd, compared with polite and at times enthusiastic applause for Perry's calls to end government bailouts and cut Congress' pay and working hours in half that were buried later in his stump speech.Special Section: Campaign 2012