STRATHAM, N.H. (AP) — Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry's swing through a key early presidential voting state continued Saturday with a boost from a Republican with direct ties to the Oval Office.
John H. Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor who was President George H.W. Bush's chief of staff, told a crowd of party faithful in Stratham that President Barack Obama and the Democrat-led Senate have put the country in danger.
"I don't think I've ever been as worried about what is going on in this country as I am now," Sununu said. "We have an absolutely incompetent president who is not even smart enough to know how bad the problems are. We have got to make a change.
"There's a handful or two of Republican governors and former governors who are great candidates," Sununu said. Perry "is someone I suspect is going to be a very frequent visitor to the state of New Hampshire."
Perry's 2012 presidential campaign ended badly after a much-publicized stumble during a televised debate when he froze and couldn't name the third of three federal agencies he said he would work to eliminate. With that as a backdrop, this visit follows an indictment last week on charges that he abused his power when he vetoed funding for an ethics unit run by a prosecutor who had been arrested for drunken driving. Perry called the indictment political payback.
He said he hasn't decided to run again but is making visits to important early states including New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.
If Perry was looking for a little love from the state where he finished a disappointing sixth in the 2012 primary, he found it in the cheers from those gathered. Linda Beyer retired to Falmouth, Maine, after the last election, but she and husband Bill returned Saturday to see the candidate they supported two years ago.
"I like his honesty. I like his delivery of being straightforward," Linda Beyer said. "He gets the job done. I've been following him and he just does a marvelous job of following through and getting things done."
In his last event, Perry went to the home of former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey where he continued to hear cheers from the crowd at the hilltop farmhouse. Dozens gathered around Perry as he spoke on the lawn that affords scenic views of verdant rolling hills. At the end of his talk, Perry brought a cheer with a Texas-tough closer about what he says is the federal government's failure to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
"If Washington, D.C., won't secure the border, Texas will," Perry said.
After the speech, some said they liked what they heard from the Texas governor.
"I'd certainly be thrilled to see him as president," said Harvey Greenberg, of Warner. "I think he's smart to be here early to get himself familiar right here on the ground in New Hampshire."
Democrats have used the visit to tie state Republican candidates for governor and Senate to Perry, whom they call a "disgrace," and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another 2016 contender who is still dogged by a scandal in which aides orchestrated the shutdown of a bridge as political retribution.
In Stratham, Perry hit the same notes as the day before in events in Portsmouth, Manchester and Nashua. He criticized the federal government for overreach on things like health care and education overhaul and ripped Obama for foreign policy he said has put the nation in danger. He invoked James Foley, the New Hampshire journalist slain by Islamic State militants.
"When a president says there's a red line, it has to mean something," Perry said.
Hunter McGee contributed to this report from Chichester, N.H.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.