Politics & Media

Hamlet on the Rio Grande: The GOP Waits For Rick Perry

Republican fundraisers and consultants are eager to find out whether Texas Gov. Rick Perry is a summer comet or a real candidate to challenge President Obama.

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Which Republican politician wrote the following words?

“We are as a nation, on paper, almost bankrupt… [We can’t] have a foreign policy unless we have the money to pay for it. We do not have an army unless we can fund it… We do not have alliances and friendships sealed by aid without money… We cannot lead, or even be an example, without money. And we are out of it.”

In fact, the author was not a man or woman seeking the GOP presidential nomination—it’s The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan—but expect similar sentiments expressed by candidates from now until next year’s election. Noonan didn’t mention Rick Perry in her June 18 op-ed—which was a bit odd since it was Perry Week at the Journal—but there’s no Republican aspirant who could deliver those words of fiscal warning more forcefully better than the three-term Texas governor, who is contemplating announcing a run several weeks from now.

Right now, as already-in candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney (the two most serious of the gaggle) are drawing lukewarm interest, Perry is the It Guy of the GOP. Since the end of May, national Republican fundraisers, consultants and would-be kingmakers are fairly drooling at the prospect of Perry joining the fray, such as it is, of White House aspirants. Like the vast majority of career pols, Perry isn’t shy, and so he’s lapping up the attention, and last week made the requisite pilgrimage to the Journal’s editorial offices, and emerged with a number of bullish reports. The editorialists and columnists focused on Texas’ remarkable—in this economic climate—record of job creation and tort reform, while mostly skipping over Perry’s less appealing (to me, at least) coziness with the Christian Right, social positions that make a small-government Libertarian lose his or her lunch, and his wacky evangelical “Response” event planned for August.

Which makes sense: the Journal has traditionally placed economics and the expansion of free enterprise and robust markets above contentious matters of morality. And the economic numbers in Texas on Perry’s watch are eye-popping, accentuated in these past three weeks of double-dip recession fear and a President who appears utterly flummoxed when speaking about how exactly his administration is going to lower unemployment and make Americans more optimistic about the nation’s short- and long-term economic health. Since June of 2009, according to Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Texas has added 266,300 jobs; the nation as a whole has added 722,000. In a June 10 editorial, a Journal writer says: “Texas has no state income tax. Its regulatory conditions are contained and flexible. It is fiscally responsible and government is small. Its right-to-work law doesn’t impose unions on businesses or employees. It is open to global trade and competition.”

It’s said that the electorate won’t pull the lever for another governor from Texas: I say that’s baloney since the memory of President Bush pales in comparison to an empty checking account. Another common thread of criticism is that Perry is extremely unpopular with conservatives in his own state, which could be true, as Real Clear Politics’ Tom Bevan describes in a June 4 article about Perry’s legislation in 2007 that required all sixth-grade girls to be given the vaccine Gardasil, which prevents HPV, the most commonly transmitted sexual disease in the U.S. That liberal, nanny-state law was praised, Bevan wrote, by The New York Times, which can be the kiss of political death for a conservative. Still, though the Gardasil issue rankled Texans, it didn’t prevent Perry from a convincing reelection run last November. It’s certain that other GOP candidates, preparing for a possible Perry entrance, are readying ads about the controversial measure, and the national media, once it’s done propping up Perry (out of boredom), will hop on the Gardasil bandwagon as well.

Ed Kilgore, writing for The New Republic’s website on June 17, “Rick Perry: Why He’s Not the Man to Save the GOP,” expanded on conservative distrust of Perry in Texas, belittled the state’s job creation and cited his Tea Party cred as reasons why the current hype is overblown. Still, his concluding paragraph signaled liberal fear about an Obama/Perry election.

He writes: “Some [Texas conservatives] appear to be stunned at the very idea [of a presidential campaign], treating him as a sort of Chauncey Gardiner figure who has stumbled, through remarkable luck, into the national spotlight. But Perry’s ultimate stroke of luck could be in appearing on the scene at a time when the Republican Party considers the power of its ideology, not the brains or the accomplishments of its leaders, its trump card in 2012.” Sounds like Kilgore’s already making excuses for an Obama defeat.

Last Saturday, Perry pleased a crowd at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, saying, "It saddens me when sometimes my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left… Our party cannot be all things to all people."

I know several conservatives in Texas and they’re not nuts over Perry, but realistically, faced with the choice of Obama or Perry, does anyone believe that the electoral vote-rich state is going to fall to the Democrat? And nationally, as the Journal’s Dan Henninger wrote last Thursday, Perry’s Texan “swagger” isn’t necessarily a natural fit with the independent voters who decide presidential elections, but if the unemployment rate remains stuck around nine percent, Americans can overlook a lot of flaws that would disqualify a candidate in a happier economic climate.

Henninger noted in his column that Perry’s accent is nothing like Bush’s, and that when the Governor spoke softly at a recent New York appearance, “it had the whiff of that comfy Jimmy Stewart drawl in his cowboys movies.” Make of that what you will, but one of Barack Obama’s compelling traits during the ’08 campaign was the cool and confident demeanor that sounded like a combination of Ali and JFK. Given the right circumstances, I wouldn’t be surprised if the nation would cotton to a Jimmy Stewart type of candidate.

DISCUSSION
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 20, 2011, 08:46AM
    Again with Perry, Russ? It's not gonna happen. First, oil pricing, not Perry, is the reason Texas employment is doing well. Second, his brand of evangelical/Tea Party politics would only galvanize the left. Third, he needs serious help in debate if he is to appeal to the nation and not just the loud minority of his party. Fourth, his closet is jam-packed with skeletons. Fifth, he has no national organization. Sixth, education and health are low points for Texas. I still beleive that Huntsman is the only republican candidate that can pull enough votes from the middle and left to beat Obama. His tacking to the left of his party will play well in states with open primaries, an important factor for this election since Dems already have Obama.
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 20, 2011, 12:02PM
    The Texas economic numbers are not "eye popping." The employment statistic you post takes advantage of the fact that unemployment was rising on a national level from June 2009 to Jan 2010 while the Texas economy was holding steady at 8%. If you look at the job creation numbers from the past year, Texas has created 9% of the nation's jobs and the state has 8% of the nation's population. 156,431 jobs created between in Texas 5/10-5/11 1.7 million jobs created nationally between May 2010 and May 2011. While unemployment in Texas stayed at 8%, national unemployment was fell from 10.1% to 9.1%.
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 20, 2011, 12:05PM
    According to the Dallas Fed's Texas business outlook surveys, the Texas economy is starting to slow down quite dramatically, possibly heading into a double dip recession. Seems like the praise heaped upon the Texas economy is quite unwarranted. Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey May 31, 2011 Expectations regarding future business conditions were less optimistic in May. The future general business activity index was 8, its lowest reading since September 2010, and the future company outlook index also fell to an 8-month low. Future indexes of manufacturing conditions also fell in May, but remained in solid positive territory. Texas Service Sector Outlook Survey June 1, 2011 Respondents were less optimistic about the broader economy this month. The general business activity index fell from 8 to -2, its first negative reading since July 2010. The company outlook index stayed positive but moved down from 8 to 2. Texas Retail Outlook Survey June 1, 2011 Retailers were less optimistic about the direction of the broader economy in May. The general business activity index pushed further into negative territory this month, with nearly one-third of respondents noting weaker activity. The company outlook index moved down to 1, suggesting the outlook improved little from April.
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 20, 2011, 12:59PM
    Only one thing I would add to Texan's dismantling: Perry's inability to stay the execution -- for ever so brief a time -- of an innocent man, and subsequently hindering the investigation therein. A classic case of Republicans being pro life except in cases where killing people makes them look tough on crime.
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 20, 2011, 01:20PM
    Unemployment in Texas was 8.1% in Oct 2009. Unemployment in the United States was 10.1% in Oct 2009. Now unemployment in Texas is 8% and unemployment in the United States is 9.1%. How do you figure the job creation numbers in Texas are "eye popping?" Sounds like you're using some funny numbers.
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 20, 2011, 02:12PM
    Unemployment was 4.2% when Perry became governor. The unemployment rate is currently 8%. Maybe he can become President and double the national unemployment rate. Also, how many jobs were created by the Obama stimulus money Perry used to plug the hole in the deficit? Had he not had that money, big cuts would have been made and that surely would have made the unemployment problem even worse!
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 20, 2011, 04:50PM
    The unemployment numbers are in fact quite impressive when one considers that Texas, unlike other large states such as New York and California, is seeing a massive influx of people from other states. Texas is creating jobs not only for native Texans, but for those who are moving here in droves. Living in Austin, one simply cannot perceive the economic distress of the rest of the country.
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 20, 2011, 06:26PM
    kramartini, people moving into a state helps a state create jobs. People moving out hurt the economy and slow growth. Also, there has not been a "massive influx." In January 2010, the Texas labor force was 12,045,259. In Jan 2011, the Texas labor force was 12,212,156. The labor force grew a mere 1.3% in 2010. These numbers come directly from Bureau of Labor web site. You can also see that since Dec 2010, Texas has created 14% of the nation's jobs, not 37% or 48% as claimed by Perry supporters. The state has 8% of the nation's population so they are helping the employment to population ratio and job creation is better than the national average but it's not some kind of a "texas miracle."
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 20, 2011, 09:33PM
    to anyone that doesn't think that Texas' stats are eye-popping, I suggest they check out an article by Michael Redbourn at http://www.ourchangingglobe.com/perry-for-president/
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 21, 2011, 01:39AM
    Whoa there partner, let not forget Ron Paul who has been saying the same things for years - minus the mandatory STD vaccinations & globalist NAFTA trade deals of course. http://westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2010/03/ron-paul-on-nafta.html This is a puff piece at best...
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 21, 2011, 08:48AM
    knopfman, that blog post is a blip of static. No links, no evidence, no numbers, nothing. Just boilerplate bullshit.
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 21, 2011, 09:13AM
    Perry's a nonstarter. He's too cuckoo on social issues and his record is spotty. This is an economic election but frankly I think Obama will crush Perry if he knows how to play the game.
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 21, 2011, 10:55AM
    Check the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank Web Site especially the beige book summary on current economic conditions, which are indicating continued growth across all sectors, not a dramatic drop. The Dallas FED composite leading indicator is flat not down. Texas consumer confidence is and has been significantly higher than the national average. Texas GDP and Employment growth rates have exceeded the US average and the growth rate of other large states over the past 10 years. Graduation rates in 2010 have increased significantly for all and for each category of ethnic minorities. Real Personal Income growth in 2010 has exceeded the US average. Ain't a bad place to make a living. At least a little credit goes to our good governor.
    Responses to this comment
  • Go to comment.
    Jun 21, 2011, 11:43AM
    Please explain why Perry should get credit. Also, an increase in graduation rates sounds great until you realize how many don't graduate. That is the problem with Perry and Christie, their numbers look good in isolation but lousy when viewed in context. This is why these guys are the beltway heros. In reality, they are paper tigers at best.
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