PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry is testing his presidential prospects in New Hampshire as he defiantly dismisses a recent indictment and tries to convince voters that he's an improved version of the 2012 candidate who stumbled badly.
Perry was scheduled to be in the key early voting state on Friday and Saturday, where he was to meet top Republicans and attend at least a half-dozen events, including one sponsored by the conservative political group Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
Perry was indicted last week by a grand jury in Austin, Texas, on charges stemming from his veto last summer of state funds for public corruption prosecutors. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday and has said he's confident the indictments will be exposed as nothing but a politically motivated attempt at retaliation.
So far, the indictment — and Perry's response — appear to only be galvanizing New Hampshire Republicans, according to Steve Duprey, a GOP national committee member and former chairman of the state party.
"I think that he is taking the right approach that it's wrong, unjust and political," Duprey said. "Indicting the governor for vetoing funds because he thought a convicted drunk shouldn't be a prosecutor is wrong."
Since the indictment was announced, Duprey has made the rounds, taking the temperature of state Republicans, who say Perry's legal problem matters less than his viability as a presidential candidate.
"Almost to a person, they go, 'Well, I didn't think he ran a good campaign last time' but lots of people run two or three times in New Hampshire and they're willing to give him a fresh look," Duprey said. "I'm also hearing that he's being treated really unfairly."
Democrats, though, are using his visit to try to hang Perry around the neck of the two Republicans likely to run for U.S. Senate and governor.
"Now that the New Hampshire Republican Party has made it clear they will continue to welcome Perry to the Granite State despite his recent criminal indictment, will Scott Brown and Walt Havenstein also embrace the disgraced Texas governor?" Democratic Party spokesman Bryan Lesswing said.
Still, Duprey said New Hampshire voters were more interested in seeing whether Perry can handle adversity this time around the way he couldn't in 2012.
"His campaign here in New Hampshire last time fell well short of expectations, both his and New Hampshire voters," Duprey said.