Perry on The Ballot in New Hampshire, But Faces Uphill Battle

Rick Perry files for the New Hampshire Primary. (Fox News Photo)

Rick Perry files for the New Hampshire Primary. (Fox News Photo)

CONCORD N.H. -- Texas Governor Rick Perry has taken a beating in the polls and was recently lampooned by pundits for his stumbling debate performances but he is continuing to push his run for the presidency forward, officially signing up for New Hampshire's primary Friday.

A constant flicker of media camera lights captured the moment as Perry inked the paperwork. Moments later he took questions from the assembled press."There's just great history in this first-in-the-nation primary and it's a tradition that I certainly respect. I'm very honored to be a part of it and I'm excited to bring my conservative message to the Granite State," said Perry.

Perry took a lighthearted approach when asked about his campaign's suggestion that he would skip future debates to focus on campaigning.

"I don't know whether or not we're going to forego any debates or not. You know, there's going to be a lot of debates. Shoot, I may get to be a good debater before this is all over with," Perry joked.

At Perry's campaign headquarters in Manchester volunteers are prepping hundreds of lawn signs and preparing to do more retail politicking on the ground.

Supporters will need to work hard to beat the front-runner Mitt Romney. He boasts a solid double-digit lead in most recent New Hampshire polls. Despite the numbers, Perry believes he's got a shot at victory.

"I'm not here just because I like to hang around with y'all," Perry joked with local press reporters. "I'm here to win. I'm here to talk to the people of New Hampshire about how we get American's back to work."

University of New Hampshire Professor of Politics Dante Scala believes Perry must overcome a troubled start if he is to win over the state's politically savvy voters.

"He's already made his first impression and that's the most damaging thing," said Scala who argued stronger debate performances would have altered Perry's current standing.

"I think because the new wrinkle this cycle has been a lot of Republicans have been sitting home watching FOX, watching the other cable network debates and really getting a strong impression on these candidates and that's the problem for Rick Perry. It's too late. He's already made a first impression. It's a bad one and now he's got to fight back and try to win over those voters who are now skeptical of him," said Scala.

Following his appearance at the statehouse, Governor Perry took his message to voters at the Barley House restaurant, speaking with a small group of supporters and recording an interview with the local radio station WKXL.

Touting his jobs record in Texas and fighting off critics of his flat tax plan unveiled earlier this week, he said, "I'm not interested in class warfare. I'm just interested in creating jobs. And if we allow people to have more of what they work hard for and they have confidence that they can reinvest that and create jobs and in turn create wealth, then that's what we ought to be about."

When asked how he would convince people in New Hampshire to vote for him despite Texas being "a world away from New England" in terms of social conservatism and the role of religion in politics, Governor Perry again turned to his economic record and downplayed his beliefs, saying "I'm no expert on the religion you're going to choose, but what I am an expert on is job creation."

After finishing the interview, an elderly man who identified himself as a member of the Northborough Tea Party confronted the Governor over his support of providing in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. Perry blamed the federal government's failure to secure the border with Mexico for why his state was forced to deal with this problem, and assured the man that his top priority as president would be to secure the border "Day one."

Fox News' Chris Laible contributed to this report.

Molly Line joined Fox News Channel as a Boston-based correspondent in January 2006.