Rick Perry arrived in Iowa last August like the rock star of the Republican presidential race. He is trying to make his departure a more discreet affair.
The Texas governor prepared a last-minute push to avoid an embarrassing showing in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, meeting with his volunteers early in the day and then encouraging potential caucus-goers at two town halls. But as his poll standing continued its slide and others outpaced his organization, he was already looking ahead to South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary to reboot a campaign that began with such promise.
A buoyant Perry tried to encourage supporters on Monday as his campaign bus rolled from the conservative northwest corner of the state back to his campaign base near Des Moines.
"When we win the big Iowa caucuses tomorrow, that's the only one that matters," the candidate boomed in Perry, Iowa.
If public and private polling is correct, that was a longshot prediction. The final Des Moines Register poll, released Saturday, showed Perry at 11 percent with four rivals, led by Mitt Romney, ahead of him.
Perry's team was planning events in South Carolina for Wednesday and hoping a jumbled pecking order would emerge from Iowa's caucuses.
The tough-talking Texan joined the campaign the same day rival Michele Bachmann won the Ames straw poll, the early test vote that briefly gave her momentum. He stole her headlines but also attracted scrutiny.
During the following weeks, lackluster debate performances and shaky policy proposals dogged his campaign. Fundraising, a boon in the first weeks, slowed.
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