The Perry Letter
Team Good Hair: Texas Governor Rick Perry gets a boost in the natural state as State Rep. David Sanders rounds up twenty state legislators who sign a letter asking Perry to enter the Presidential race.
A sound analysis of Perry's candidacy should include two components: 1) Is he the answer in terms of policy and 2) is he the answer in terms of politics. A second question relates to the politics of state reps banding together and making an early endorsement on a Presidential primary race.
First observation: I noticed that none of these guys signed any letters asking former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee to jump in the race. Back in January, when Huckabee was considering jumping in the race, a poll of Texas voters was taken. Down in Texas, Mike Huckabee was the winner. It had Huckabee way ahead of Perry (who was in 6th place) in a potential presidential race. Is it a question of the grass always being greener? They think our guy is the answer and we think their guy is the answer? I don't know the answer! Still, even Pawlenty and Santorum poll better in their home states than Perry did in that poll.
Another Huckabee-Perry tie in is that both men are perceived as "conservatives" by the average member of the population in the nation at-large, but there are conservative activists in both states (like me in the case of Huckabee) who will tell you that each of them are posers. While I don't know about that for Perry, I specifically reject any idea that Perry is a political "outsider", though he does play one on TV.
It is true that Rick Perry has made some "Tea Party" type statements. His rhetoric is often conservative. While that is better than someone who spouts liberal or even "moderate" rhetoric, I remind you that he is from Texas. If you want to get elected, and stay that way, those are the kind of statements you had better make. It cost him nothing politically to talk as tough as he has in Texas. In fact, he could not have survived without it. I postulate that if Mitt Romney had been a Texan he would have said very similar things, instead of saying lefty things he had to say while running for office in Massachusetts.
I don't hear the Perry proponents talking much about his policies or exactly what he would do to, for example, reduce the federal deficit. Instead, they tend to cite stats about how well Texas as a state is doing. I am a policy wonk, and I can't see a compelling policy reason why Rick Perry needs to jump into this race. He is not offering any specific answers that are in any significant way different from several of the other announced candidates for the race.
Texas is the #1 oil and gas state in this country, and they had zero income tax before he ever became Governor. Of course they are going to be better off than the rest of the nation at a time when prices for oil are skyrocketing. Gov. Perry deserves credit for not screwing things up, but it is hard to cite any specific change of policy that he initiated that is responsible for the relatively strong economy which Texas enjoys.
The answer to the policy part of the question is "maybe, but there is no compelling policy reason I can detect for a Perry candidacy." The answer to the political part of the question is more clear. A Perry candidacy would risk a disaster for the GOP and for the country.
Consider that the field is already divided among several candidates who have a lot of potential staying power. While Romney is unpopular in the south, Northeast Republicans are going to roll their eyes at the thought of voting for another Texas Governor who fires six shooters into the air and even insincerely talks of succession from the union. They will stick with Romney. Romney has cash, and he has a large network of strongly motivated Mormon supporters throughout the nation. Unless he will take the Vice President slot, he is in it to win it. Romney is not going to bow out for Rick Perry. Ron Paul stayed in it until the end last time, and he is in a much stronger position now than he was four years ago. Western states tend to lean libertarian and he might have an even more resolute base than Romney. Michelle Bachman is a threat to win Iowa, and if she does then she will emerge as the favorite of the large slice of the Tea Party that is not ready for some of the difficult choices that Paul espouses.
Add Perry to that mix and there are four candidates who could win significant slices of delegates, enough to prevent any of them from winning the nomination outright. If Perry jumps in, we may be looking at a brokered convention, or such obvious establishment intervention to avoid one that it enrages the grassroots even further, leaving an ugly mood going into the Fall.
But the bigger problem for the Republicans is that Perry is absolutely the wrong man to beat Obama. He may be the kind of guy who makes southern conservatives swoon, but he matches up terribly against Obama. He does not have the potential to bring in one single swing vote group. Even McCain matched up better against Obama than Rick Perry.
Southern conservatives may not accept that statement, because they love Perry's style. I'm saying it is a mistake to think everyone in the country shares your tastes and thought-patterns. The best candidate is not always the one who makes people just like you get the most fired up. The best candidate is one who can also reach out to others who are not like you, while still keeping the substance you want. What you have to do is step back and try to mentally put yourself in the position of a swing voter in various parts of the country.
Do you really think that Western libertarians, midwesterners, and northeasterners, are going to be anxious to back another Texas Governor for President? The Bush administration only seems like the "good old days" relative to the Obama disaster, but it was the Bush disaster that permitted Obama to get the job in the first place. Perry would be seen as another Bush term to much of the rest of the nation, and that does not appeal to much of the country. His friendly relations with energy companies, a plus in Texas, will be used against him in a national race where angry citizens blame the oil companies every time they have to fill up. It is a political disaster waiting to happen. Planned Parenthood officials and other leftist parasites are probably on their knees praying to Satan that Perry enters the race!
The answers to the first two questions produces the answer to the third. While I admire their courage and feel that they had every right to band together and endorse a candidate, I can't see the wisdom in this specific move. Perhaps they should band together to address some matter specific to the state, such as the propriety of Dustin McDaniel setting up a government within the government, or his teaming with Governor Beebe to violate the state Constitution on redistricting.