Rick Perry needs a fourth-quarter comeback to win in Iowa. So at the GOP debate in Sioux City on Thursday night, he compared himself to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who has captured the attention of NFL fans by leading his team to six consecutive wins, several in last-minute fashion.
In the first moments of the Fox News Channel debate, as the candidates each made the case for why he or she should be the Republican nominee, Perry quickly invoked Tebow. But the Texas governor, still foundering in the polls, wasn’t simply trying to hook his wagon to a football star. He was also giving a coded shout-out to the religious conservatives so crucial to his candidacy in Iowa and elsewhere.
Perry has courted those voters with increasing frequency, releasing a controversial campaign ad last week that objected to service in the armed forces by openly gay men and women. Tebow, a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the University of Florida, is widely known to be a born-again Christian.
Tebow has been criticized by some for an unorthodox style of play. Perry, who has struggled at some of the GOP debates, sees a kindred spirit.
“There are a lot of folks that said Tim Tebow wasn't going to be a very good NFL quarterback. There are people that stood up and said, 'Well, he doesn't have the right throwing mechanisms, or he's not playing the game right,' " Perry said. “And he won two national championships, and that looked pretty good. We were the national champions in job creation back in Texas. And so, am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you, I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.”
The Broncos have won seven of eight games since Tebow took over as starting quarterback, and they trailed in the second half of six of those wins. It’s earned him the nickname “The Mile High Messiah.”
Perry seems to be looking for some of that magic to rub off on him.