DERRY — Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be dropping in the polls, but some New Hampshire voters are confident he'll still be a viable candidate in the presidential primary Jan. 10.
The three-term governor spoke to a crowd of about 60 people last night at the Brookstone Event Center. Perry told of how he would help create jobs, decentralize the federal government and secure the nation's borders if elected.
He was accompanied by Joe Arpaio, a sheriff from Arizona who formerly worked in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Concord office.
Arpaio, known for his tough stance on illegal immigration, joined Perry on the campaign trail yesterday. Perry voiced his intent last night to prevent illegal immigrants, drugs and weapons from entering the U.S. The future of the next generation depends upon it, he said.
"I have been a law-and-order governor and I will be a law-and-order president," he said. " I will secure that border."
But as Perry pulled up a stool and fielded questions from the audience, reports were circulating that his campaign staff was undergoing a shakeup. He denied those reports.
Perry's speech in Derry also came on the heels of a blunder made earlier in the day while speaking to students at Saint Anselm College in Manchester.
He asked students who will be at least 21 to vote for him but said younger students could still work hard on his behalf. Perry either forgot or didn't realize the nation's voting age is 18, prompting whispering in the crowd.
Perry's mistakes and lackluster performances in debates have come under fire in recent weeks. At the same time, his poll numbers have dropped.
Since announcing his candidacy this summer, Perry has led at times in some national polls.
When Perry spoke at the Adams Memorial Opera House in Derry on Sept. 30, he and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were at the top of the pack.
But the latest Rasmussen Reports poll, conducted Monday, places Perry in a sixth-place tie with Michele Bachmann. They each received support from only 2 percent of 762 likely Republican primary voters.
Romney led with 34 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain, Perry and Bachmann.
Voters who listened to Perry speak at the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce event last night said they were impressed with what they heard.
The voters, who came from across the state, also said they think Perry can weather the criticism his candidacy has received and still play a vital role in the first-in-the-nation primary.
Those in the crowd included Salem Selectman Michael Lyons and Salem Budget Committee member Patrick McDougall.
McDougall, a Romney supporter, said Perry was convincing.
"He sounded really impressive on some of the issues," McDougall said.
McDougall said he particularly agrees with Perry's strong stance on illegal immigration. "I do feel it's an issue that a lot of people in the country are concerned about," McDougall said. "It does concern me that we have illegal immigrants who are stealing jobs from American workers."
But the key issue for most Granite State residents is creating jobs and jump-starting the economy — Romney's main platform, he said.
Perry also focused last night on stabilizing the economy and ending multimillion-dollar bailouts. He also called for deregulating the federal government and received applause when he called for a "part-time Congress."
Biz Corrow of Sandown said he hasn't decided who to vote for, but liked Perry's message.
"It's true and to the heart," he said.
Corrow thinks Perry will still be in the race in January — despite his miscues.
"He's had a couple of mistakes," Corrow said. "I felt for him."
McDougall said Perry will rise above the poor debate performances.
"I think the American people, in general, can forgive him for the few mistakes he has made along the way," he said.
Emmanuel Hooper, 53, came from Portsmouth to hear Perry speak. He intends to vote for him in the primary.
"He really speaks from the heart," Hooper said.
"He is very authentic. I would like to see him win."
But Perry hasn't been treated fairly by the media, he said.
"He is human," Hooper said. "I think his flubs have been blown out of proportion."
Perry will address lawmakers today in Concord, where they may vote to override Gov. John Lynch's veto of right-to work legislation.
"This state is right on the verge of becoming a real crown jewel as a job-creation state," Perry said. "That right-to-work law will do that."
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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