(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Fighting county by county, handshake by handshake, GOP contenders Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Rick Perry crossed paths twice Saturday in the northwest corner of Iowa, each hoping that time spent on the ground here will equal votes come the first in the nation caucuses on Jan 3.
Both candidates are lagging in the polls despite the socially conservative bona fides that Republican Iowa caucus-goers traditionally look for. Iowa voters routinely say they make their decision only after shaking a candidate’s hand, and each is hoping that old-school retail politics, gruelingly practiced on days-long bus tours will be the key to their success.
Perry and Bachmann both spent Friday night in Spencer, Iowa, even staying at the same hotel. Their giant tour buses, wrapped with campaign logos, were parked just feet apart.
At Saturday’s events in Spencer and Algona, held sometimes moments apart and just a few miles away from each other, voters had to choose between which candidates to meet.
Soon after Bachmann’s Hy-Vee appearance, Perry met a voter in Spencer outside a coffee house who was asking for an autograph. The paper he wanted signed was a receipt from Hy-Vee, already bearing Bachmann’s signature.
“She’s a good gal,” Perry said of Bachmann.
But at an event in Algona, where Gov. Perry was also visiting, Bachmann had less kind words for the Texas governor, particularly with regard to his support for a mandatory vaccine for girls against a sexually transmitted disease that has been linked to cervical cancer.
“There’s real questions and real problems with Gov. Perry because of what he was involved with in the manufacture of Gardisil, and he was involved with companies in Texas that made donations to him and then there were laws passed and grants that were given,” Bachmann said of Perry, accusing him of influence peddling.
“We can’t have that,” she said. “I don’t believe in crony capitalism. People don’t want to see pay-to-play. We can’t have a candidate that’s tarnished. Gov. Perry has been involved in politics for 27 years and I’m the true outsider.”
Perry and Bachmann are each on the road until shortly before Christmas. Bachmann kicked off her tour Friday, and plans to visit all 99 of the state’s counties. She planned to make 13 stops on Saturday.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent