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Rick Perry rebound in Iowa: Assisted by veterans?

Polls show Rick Perry gaining ground and Newt Gingrich weakening in Iowa. Why Rick Perry may be picking up the vet vote.

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Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks with residents on Dec. 14 in Harlan, Iowa, the first stop of his two-week bus tour in Iowa.

REUTERS/Jeff Haynes

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Lots of news stories today about how the race to win Iowa is still wide open. The New York TimesNate Silver takes a whirl through the polling data and says any of five candidates could plausibly win. And Politico’s Maggie Haberman reports that internal poll numbers from the Mitt Romney and Rick Perry camps show Newt Gingrich’s lead in Iowa is indeed slipping.

Interestingly, she also quotes a “veteran GOP caucus-watcher” as saying:

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“Watch Rick Perry. He’s going for a top three finish, and that could be to Romney’s expense.”

Recommended:Election 101: 11 questions about Rick Perry and his White House bid

We’ve found ourselves wondering about Perry, who’s kicking off a 42-city Iowa bus tour today. Notably, two recent Iowa polls have shown a slight uptick in Perry’s support. In particular, an American Research Group (ARG) poll released yesterday (Tuesday)  showed him gaining 8 points (though he’s still in fourth place). 

What’s behind this movement? Clearly, some of it is Gingrich starting to come back to Earth. In the ARG poll, Gingrich was down 5 percentage points from the previous poll - and Perry seemed to be the clear beneficiary. 

And despite some intense Internet mockery, Perry’s “Strong” ad - where he criticizes the fact that gay soldiers can serve openly in the military while children can’t celebrate Christmas in school - may be generating some traction in the state.

In particular, Decoder is now wondering if the ad’s appeal was actually two-fold - going beyond Christian conservatives to another potentially powerful voting bloc: veterans. 

Remember, aside from Ron Paul, Perry is the only candidate who actually served in the US military. And in 2004, veterans were absolutely key to Sen. John Kerry’s come-from-behind win in Iowa.

Decoder just watched a live stream of an Iowa town hall event, where Perry was introduced by a veteran with who’d suffered serious third degree burns on 50 percent of his body. He gave a powerful introduction on behalf of Perry, hammering the issue of American exceptionalism.

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If Perry can marshall the veteran community behind him, a campaign that not so long ago was universally seen as dead could conceivably come back to life. 

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