(Corrects first name of Romney in third paragraph.)
Gone were the insinuations of treason, stream of wisecracks and Lone Star State cufflinks.
The Texas governor, who began his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Aug. 13, has shaken up the campaign with his swagger and an eagerness to take on frontrunner Mitt Romney.
Yet after days of dominating the headlines, Perry’s major goal in New Hampshire seemed not to make any. He hewed closely to his economic message in an address before a business association in Bedford, reading his remarks from a prepared text. Later on, he dismissed reporter questions about his campaign with a quick “it’s all good” and a salute.
His more subdued politicking followed the furor surrounding his Aug. 15 comment in Iowa that the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve could be seen as “almost treacherous -- or treasonous,” and would justify “ugly” treatment for the central bank’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, if he came to Texas.
His remarks were widely criticized -- including by fellow Republicans such as political strategist Karl Rove -- and spurred questions about Perry’s readiness for the national stage.
When asked yesterday about his remarks, Perry seemed somewhat chagrined. “I got in trouble talking about the Federal Reserve yesterday,” he said in Bedford. “I got lectured.”
He used the uproar, though, to steer back to economic policy. “The president said I needed to watch what I say,” Perry said. “I just want to respond back, if I may: Mr. President, actions speak louder than words. And my actions as governor are helping create jobs in this country. The president’s actions are killing jobs in this country.”
Nor could he resist flirting with another dispute when fielding a question about climate change.
“There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects,” he said, expressing skepticism that human activities contribute to climate change. “I think we’re seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists that are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”
Perry, who earlier this month led a public prayer rally in Houston, is a favorite among socially conservative voters who dominate the Iowa caucuses that start the nomination process. He may prove a harder sell in New Hampshire, which hosts the nation’s first primary and where Romney has a wide lead in polling on the Republican presidential race.
“There are things that have made Perry credible and successful in Texas but won’t work as well in the state of New Hampshire,” said Richard Ashooh, a Bedford Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Congress last year.
“New Hampshire voters have swagger,” Ashooh said. “It’s just a different swagger.”
New Hampshire Republicans and those independents who lean toward the party tend to be more moderate on abortion rights and gay marriage, said Andrew Smith, director of the polling institute at the University of New Hampshire.
Perry’s focus yesterday “on jobs and business and debt are the kind of things that will resonate with the New Hampshire audience,” Smith said. “He’s going to downplay the social issues.”
Romney, who also leads the Republican field in national polls and fundraising, has concentrated his campaign in New Hampshire, where he owns a vacation home and is well-known from his time as governor of a neighboring state.
Ray Sullivan, Perry’s spokesman, said the Texan’s campaign is hiring staff in the state. “To date in New Hampshire and the other early states, we have relied on a lot of great volunteers,” he said in an e-mail.
Romney touts his private-sector background as CEO of the private equity firm Bain Capital LLC as giving him greater understanding of the economy than most of his rivals.
Though Perry has held fulltime political offices since being elected Texas agricultural commissioner in 1990, he isn’t ceding the business background argument to Romney.
Perry’s comments on climate change yesterday drew a distinction with Romney, who has attributed the globe’s warming trend in part to human actions.
A May report by the National Research Council of the National Academies said that a “preponderance” of scientific evidence shows that the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases is the “most likely” cause of the planet’s warming trend during the past 50 years.
In remarks to business leaders yesterday in Nashua, New Hampshire, Perry endorsed an idea -- also backed by Romney --to allow American companies to have a break on overseas profits now subject to a 35 percent tax rate. The break, he suggested, could last as long as five years.
“Why not look at how you might repatriate those dollars and have those focused on job creation?” Perry said.
That message reassured George Katis, owner of Nashua Wallpaper & Paint Co, who questioned Perry after the candidate toured Nashua-based Resonetics LLC, a micro-manufacturing company.
“Governor, I want to tell you that you came across very moderate,” said Katis, pointing at a row of television cameras. “Since you announced, many of your friends in the media here have been painting you as to the right of Attila the Hun.”
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