Two of the leading Republican presidential candidates avoided confrontation Sunday night as they attended the same Iowa fundraiser to court social and religious conservatives.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, already seen as a leading contender a day after officially entering the race, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman aligned with the Tea Party movement and winner of Saturday's straw poll, shared a stage in Waterloo and struck the same tune.
"Everybody's got their own issues that matter, but at the end of the day, getting America working again is what the bulk of the people really care about," Perry told a swarm of reporters shortly after arriving at the Electric Park Ballroom.
During an interview with Radio Iowa a few hours before the event, Bachmann avoided directly criticizing or challenging Perry. Instead, she focused on her victory in the Ames straw poll, calling it "step number one in a long journey."
"I intend to earn every Iowan's vote," she said.
Perry had been expected to enter the race for weeks, setting the stage for a fight with Bachmann to win the support of social conservatives. Already, his entry has some voters, even Bachmann supporters, considering a switch.
John Sabbath, 79, of Cedar Falls, said Bachmann has "the right philosophy" on economics, but "down the line" he might be interested in another candidate like Perry.
"We don't know that much about Rick Perry," he said. "We know some, but not a lot."
Steve Sukup, a businessman, former state legislator and 2002 Republican candidate for governor, suggested Perry and Bachmann would make good running mates.
"I think we're seeing the ticket tonight," said Sukup. "I think he's just a solid conservative. He's got the right background ... and then Michele has tremendous enthusiasm."
The Electric Park Ballroom was the scene of Bachmann's "homecoming" event in June, the evening before formally launching her candidacy with a speech in Waterloo, he birthplace.
Perry told reporters he would spend "a lot of time in Iowa" as part of a broad national campaign in all 50 states. Iowa holds the first caucus in early January, followed by the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.
"We're a long way until the end of the race, and it's a marathon, not a sprint," Perry told reporters. "So we're going to be running hard and spending a lot of time in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and lots of other states."