Texas Governor Rick Perry kicked off his Iowa campaign swing tonight with a swipe at the news media and a verbal strike aimed at his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination.

“Three months to go before the Iowa Caucuses and, you know, I’m kind of reminded that the pundits don’t choose presidents. The people of Iowa do. That’s a fact,” Perry said. “And I’ll tell you, Iowa voters, they’re not looking for the most polished candidate. They’re looking for the most principled candidate.”

Perry spoke for about 15 minutes to about 300 people at a Johnson County GOP fundraiser in Tiffin, Iowa.  (Find the audio here.) Perry himself brought up one of the thorny issues that has seemingly tripped up his young campaign.

“I have a strong record when it comes to dealing with this issue of immigration,” Perry told the crowd in Tiffin. “I vetoed legislation that would have given driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.”

Perry also detailed efforts the State of Texas has undertaken to improve security at the Mexican border, including Perry’s order to deploy Texas Rangers to the area. 

“Some people talk about, well, you need to do X, Y, and Z along the border. Let me tell you, for a decade, I live it every day. I understand exactly what’s going on along that border,” Perry said.

According to Perry, it’s a warzone “in places along that border,” and he promised as president he would “secure that border.” Perry, however, did not mention the immigration-related policy for which he has been criticized, a policy that allows college-aged illegal immigrants go to Texas universities and pay in-state tuition.

Perry is scheduled to campaign in western Iowa Saturday, with stops in Sioux City, Orange City and Spencer.