Today, Texas governor Rick Perry is poised to jump into the race for the 2012 Republican nomination for president. Even before he jumped in the race, he surpassed Mitt Romney as the most likely Republican nominee on Intrade.com (which has proven slightly more reliable in the past than public polls). Why is Rick Perry so popular in the Republican party? Why do liberals think he can’t win?
First, why do Republicans and conservatives like him? He has several things going for him:
- He’s not Mitt Romney. Republicans have been looking for a solid alternative to Romney for months, and have been disappointed by Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, etc. Rick Perry seems to be their main-stream alternative.
- He’s a proven fundraiser. In one of the largest states in the union, he’s raised huge amounts of money for state-wide races. Republicans are confident that he can raise money. He raised $102 million for his three campaigns for governor, including $39 million for his 2010 race.
- He’s a successful governor of a large state. Texas gained four congressional seats in the 2010 census, which means that the state’s population has been booming for the last 10 years. Rick Perry has presided over that growth. Republicans love to say that Texas produced 70 percent of new jobs in 2008, and has 150,000 people moving to Texas every year.
- He’s a job creator. It seems like “jobs, jobs, jobs” will be the theme of the 2012 election, and the Rick Perry-run Texas has been churning them out like mad. 32,000 jobs in June, more than any other state. Politico says that he’s winning that messaging game.
- He’s conservative. Fiscally, socially, religiously, culturally.
- He’s a former Democrat. Some Republicans think that, because he was once a Democrat, he can appeal to both sides, and independents. Has there ever been another Republican president who was formerly a Democrat?
Still, even though Republicans like him (or maybe because Republicans like him), his opponents are finding plenty of things to dislike about him:
- He’s run up quite a bit of debt in Texas. While pundits on the right are touting his job-creating ways in Texas, pundits on the left say that he’s not the great leader that the right says. Facing a budget deficit in 2011 of $27 billion, he slashed state spending, and brought the deficit to between $13 billion and $25 billion (depending on who you believe). That’s 13% of their state budget!
- He’s too conservative. Have you heard that he’s anti-choice and ant-gay marriage? Also, he colludes with radical right-wing groups.
- He’s a former Democrat. This should make him unpalatable to true Republicans. He even served as the chairman of the Gore campaign in Texas in 1988.
- He has too long a record to pick apart. He’s been the longest-serving governor of Texas, and before that he served as Lieutenant Governor, Agriculture Secretary, and a member of the state House of Representatives, so he has a long record. This could be viewed as a positive by Republicans (that he’s experienced), or negative by Democrats (because there’s so much to pick apart and dissect).
- He’s a secessionist. He once argued that Texas has the right to secede from the union.
- He’s the next George Bush. This has been touted as the biggest negative for Rick Perry. He’s a Texas governor that’s conservative, sounds like George W. Bush, and even kinda looks like George W. Bush. The argument, even from Republicans, is that defeating Rick Perry would be a lay-up for President Obama. People have even said that he sounds like someone doing a Saturday Night Live impersonation of George W. Bush.
- He’s a big-government politician. This charge is most-often leveled at Perry by conservatives. Some believe that he’s a closet spender. Total Texas debt has doubled under his leadership. If elected, would the U.S. debt also double?
The Bottom Line
Rick Perry will enter the presidential race as a front runner, and will take a lot of pounding, both from the right and from the left. The question yet to be answered is, can he take it? Or will he fizzle out, like Tim Pawlenty or Gary Johnson?
Questions: What positives or negatives about Rick Perry have I missed?
“Texas’ Perry to enter presidential race with vulnerabilities” – Miami Herald
“Texas Governor Upends GOP Race” – Wall Street Journal
Watch Perry’s CPAC speech from earlier this year: