GOP Presidential candidates stump in Waterloo - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

GOP Presidential candidates stump in Waterloo

Rep. Michele Bachmann Rep. Michele Bachmann
Gov. Rick Perry Gov. Rick Perry
Former Sen. Rick Santorum Former Sen. Rick Santorum

Michele Bachmann returned to her hometown after making history at the Iowa Straw Poll. Bachmann took part Sunday in the Black Hawk County Republicans' annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

Texas Governor Rick Perry also attended the dinner. It was his first appearance in Iowa since he officially announced he's seeking the nomination.

The Republicans' dinner came the same day as former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out of the race.

Bachmann said she hopes to win over Pawlenty's former supporters.

"We'll be reaching out to all of them and inviting them in," she said Sunday in an interview with KWWL. "I had a wonderful conversation with the governor today. He wished me well and congratulated me, and I thanked him for his candidacy as well. We've known each other. I respect him and admire him."

Perry announced his candidacy Saturday, so his visit to Waterloo was swift action to woo voters. Bachmann committed to attending the dinner after Perry announced his visit. She said she was pleased her schedule allowed her to attend.

Former Senator Rick Santorum surprised organizers by announcing on national television Sunday morning he would attend.

"Complete surprise," Black Hawk County Republicans spokesperson Judd Saul said. "We had no idea! We heard from ABC this morning, and they called me and they said, 'Is Rick coming to your event?' And I said, 'I don't know. Is he?' And then the guy from ABC forwarded me the press release, and I said, 'Oh, well, this is news to me!"

Hundreds of people showed up to the dinner to hear from the three candidates, who all talked about the importance of fiscal conservatism and job creation.

Santorum finished fourth in the straw poll.

"For us, a straw poll victory yesterday," he said. "I can tell you the victory: for dollars spent for votes, we won yesterday."

He emphasized his moral conservatism and track record with sticking to that.

"We're in a fight for our moral and cultural values. We're in a fight for the economy and our jobs and for our freedoms in this election," Santorum said.

Voters and media alike were getting know Perry, the newest candidate.

"I happen to think that the biggest issue facing this country is that we are in economic turmoil," he said.

Perry rallied the crowd with charisma and said the country needs a new commander in chief of the military, "to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on a uniform of this country respects highly the president."

The introduction of Bachmann prompted a switch in microphones and lighting. Folks in the audience had to wait a minute or two for her to enter the room. Santorum and Perry had attended the entire event and ate dinner.

Once she took the stage, Bachmann thanked Iowa for the straw poll victory.

"Thank you to all of you and what you have done. It's been a great day today," she said.

She emphasized her Tea Party roots.

"They also believe that you don't spend more money than you take in," she said, of Tea Partiers such as herself. "What a concept!"

All three candidates vowed to return to Iowa and continue to listen to voters as the caucus nears.

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