Rough Patch for Perry in Portsmouth, N.H.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - Gov. Rick Perry hit a buzz saw of protest and pushback Thursday morning in this liberal corner of New Hampshire. Hecklers drowned him out as he popped into a bakery to greet voters. They hardly had to bother; nearly everyone Perry interacted with came armed with a pointed question about his views on climate change and the large number of uninsured Texans. Some candidates spend their time preaching to the choir. Others head for the lion's den. In Portsmouth, at his first "meet and greet" with ordinary New Hampshire voters since he declared his campaign last Saturday, Perry definitely left the conservative comfort zone. Whether it was masochism, a lapse in planning, or optimism that he could charm a bunch of Democrats into converting wasn't clear. Maybe his aides wanted to give Perry a dose of humility after days of national attention. "I'm scared of Perry," said Mike Dater, 76, a retiree and a cartoonist. "He's in this high visibility contest with these right wingers, and he's trying to stand out." It seemed doubtful that Perry left Popovers on the Square with more support than he arrived with. Alan Cronheim, a Portsmouth lawyer, engaged in a relatively lengthy, low-octane chat with Perry, asking how the governor would protect 30 million uninsured Americans if, as he seeks, President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is repealed. "The states have the ability to deliver health care. I just happen to think it can be delivered better by the states than by the federal government," Perry told him. Cronheim noted that after a decade as governor, a quarter of Texans lack coverage. "I don't think that answers the question, though in fairness, it's hard to create serious policy in a one-minute conversation," he said once Perry moved on. "He did nothing to deal with the plight of those who can't afford health care." Tim Chrysostom, 44, a restaurant worker from Canterbury, N.H., offered Perry a friendly handshake, then demanded to know what Texas schools teach about global warming and evolution. The day before, Perry had told a "politics and eggs" breakfast in Bedford that doctored research is rampant in climate science, and he doesn't buy the idea that manmade actions have caused problems. "We teach the straight facts," Perry said, his give-me-your-vote smile fading quickly as he moved to the next voters. "You'll have to go look in our class books." Chrysostom, who switched his registration from former independent to Democrat after the last Texan won the White House, wasn't impressed. "It was a pretty direct question, and a pretty direct dodge," he said. Martha Fuller Clark, a former state senator, and a Democrat, confronted Perry on climate change and environmental policy, too. She noted that a cap-and-trade type approach worked at curbing acid rain. "I'm not a fan of cap and trade," he said. "It concerns me that we he's not willing to pay attention to science. I want a president who's willing to look at the facts," Clark said. A crush of reporters and photographers trailed Perry around Popovers on the Square. He ignored their questions, though they probably would have been less confrontational than the voters. A network reporter got no answer when he sought comment on the Obama administration's call for Syria's strongman president to step down, for instance. Outside, a man who declined to give his name chanted "Hands off our Medicare" and "Stop attacking middle class families, Rick Perry!"   Continue reading...

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