Governor Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and former Senator Rick Santorum met in Waterloo, Iowa this evening to woo Blackhawk County Republicans and fight for national attention.  The media wondered whether Iowans would forgive Perry for snubbing the Ames straw poll and whether Bachmann could build on her win yesterday in the event.  And while some questions were answered, others will start arising from the performances.

Perry made a good start with a friendly crowd.  He used a mobile, dynamic style and emphasized the commonalities between the agricultural states of Texas and Iowa.  Perry spoke of the difficult farming life and his formative years in small-town Texas, as well as spending a surprising amount of time talking about his military experience.  At one point, he got a rousing cheer from the crowd when he pledged to make the presidency regain the respect of men and women in uniform. Perry also talked about jobs, and how his record shows that he can fix what’s ailing the nation.  The crowd reacted with enthusiasm, interrupting Perry a number of times with applause and cheers.

If Iowans were angry about his decision to skip Ames, it didn’t manifest itself here.  Perry got plenty of enthusiasm from the crowd.

In contrast, Bachmann’s reception seemed less enthusiastic.  The lighting had to be changed before Bachmann spoke, apparently at the campaign’s insistence, which delayed her entrance and interfered with the timing of her entrance announcement.  But more puzzlingly, Bachmann didn’t arrive to mix with the crowd before the event started, waiting until she was scheduled to speak to enter the Electric Ballroom.  Perry arrived early and greeted every table, the kind of retail politics that Iowa usually rewards — and that Iowans expect.  Whether the attendees were off-put by the snub or not, Bachmann received less enthusiastic response than Perry did for his speech. I should note that Bachmann actually gave a better delivery of what was essentially the same speech she did in Ames, with much better use of dynamics and projection that fit the more intimate environment.

Coming as that does in her home town, it poses the question whether Perry will steal her thunder here in Iowa as well as other states in which she will not have the natural advantages she does here.  For one evening, Bachmann came in second.

Note: Big thanks to Peter Hamby of CNN for allowing me to use his Internet connection to file this report.

Update (AP): Courtesy of the Right Scoop, here’s Perry’s speech. Click the image to watch.