Rick Perry: Another right-winger for Prez?

Rick Perry (Reuters)

Should Rick Perry conclude that voter discontent has left him an opening to enter the presidential race, the longtime Texas governor would be among the GOP field’s most conservative candidates.

Primary voters would get a skilled politician with TV anchorman looks, a Southern preacher’s oratory and a cowboy’s swagger, matched by a disarming candor and sense of humor. The former cotton farmer from the village of Paint Creek in West Texas has never lost an election in nearly three decades as a politician.

What they wouldn’t get is a candidate whose politics are positioned to unite a Republican electorate that stretches from moderate pro-business fiscal conservatives to evangelical social conservatives, with the tea party falling somewhere along the spectrum.

“Texans, God love them, have that bigger-than-life persona about politics and that doesn’t necessarily play everywhere,” said Christopher Nicholas, a Republican political consultant who has worked extensively in the Northeast and Midwest. “I haven’t heard a lot of Republicans call Social Security a disease.”

Perry has. He branded Social Security and other New Deal programs “the second big step in the march of socialism,” according to a book published last year. The “first step” was a national income tax, which he has said stands alongside the direct election of U.S. senators as a major mistake among the amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In the just-completed Texas legislative session, Perry’s “emergency items” included laws that require a photo ID in order to vote, a sonogram before a woman had an abortion and enforcement of federal immigration laws by local police.

He rejects the idea of global warming and the theory of evolution, arguing for natural climate variations and intelligent design of the universe.

In fact, he said last year when promoting his book, “Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America From Washington,” which was a state’s rights treatise that railed against the federal government, that he’s too conservative to run for national office.

“The best concrete evidence that I’m really not running for president is this book, because when you read this book, you’re going to see me talking about issues that for someone running for public office, it’s kind of been the third rail if you will,” Perry told The Associated Press shortly after winning re-election in 2010.

Perry doesn’t shy away from his deep conservatism. He embraces it with the same vigor with which he dismisses those who found his shooting of a coyote while the governor was jogging or spending tens of thousands of campaign dollars on a luxury rental home unbecoming a state chief executive.

Working with the fundamentalist American Family Association, Perry urged people to participate in a day of prayer and fasting on Aug. 6, following the example of the Bible’s book of Joel. Courting evangelical Christians always has been one of his core campaign strategies.

“When it comes to conservative social issues, it saddens me when sometimes my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left,” Perry told the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans this year. “Our party cannot be all things to all people.”

In the few polls that have included Perry, he ranks high among Republican primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, told The Associated Press on Saturday he thinks it’s very likely that Perry will jump into the race and reshape the state’s caucuses.

“I get the definite impression he’s very likely to run,” Branstad said, basing his opinion on a conversation the governors had Friday. “I think he becomes a significant factor if he becomes a candidate,” Branstad said. “It could change the whole complexion of the Iowa caucus race.”

Perry told The Des Moines Register that he would likely decide in two or three weeks. “But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs,” Perry said.

Should he run, Perry would seek the support of a wing of the party already courted by conservatives in important states such as Iowa. Those would-be rivals include U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a tea party favorite; former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a favorite of anti-abortion activists; and former businessman Herman Cain.

That could split the vote of the party’s conservative base, giving an opening to other Republicans seeking support across the GOP spectrum.

They include front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has reversed positions on several issues conservatives hold dear; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, whose moderate positions on some issues make him a nonstarter for conservatives; and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is struggling to break out of the pack.

Unlike some of those candidates, Perry has been consistent on culturally conservative issues.

States’ rights, however, is his signature issue.

In 2009, at one of the first rallies of a movement that would evolve into the tea party, he evoked the possibility that Texas might be better off seceding from the Union if what he called federal overreach continued.

He’s since said that lawmakers in state capitals should decide whether to legalize gay marriage or marijuana. In 2010, he toyed with the idea of pulling Texas out of Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care for low-income people. Perry gave up on the idea when the state’s comptroller said it would bankrupt the state.

Perry’s faith in the wisdom of local lawmakers and states’ rights has led him into strident fights with the Environmental Protection Agency.

In June, Perry signed a largely symbolic bill that allows Texas companies to continue producing incandescent light bulbs banned by the EPA, as long as they are sold within the state. Texas is the only state that has refused to put in place the EPA’s new rules regulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

Shawn Steel, a member of the Republican National Committee, met with Perry when he visited to California in late June. Steel said Perry sounds a lot like another big-state governor who was able to rely on charisma to win voters over to his conservative ideals. That was California’s Ronald Reagan.

“Reagan said a lot of controversial things, far more than Rick Perry,” Steel said. “It’s how he explained them and addressed them with that disarming smile of his and a very clever quip. Can Rick do that? That’s the question.”

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Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

11 Responses to "Rick Perry: Another right-winger for Prez?"

  1. eve  July 19, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Another “pre-approved for the masses” candidate for the peons to believe they elected?

    A real choice we haven’t gotten in decades.
    Is this the “best” the US has to offer in terms of “quality?”
    Seriously?

    After all of these years and all of these candidates, if they were so qualified, why are we where we are now as a nation?

    I think the answer is obvious to all on this site.

  2. Fivebyfives  July 19, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Odd, is it not, that the party of Lincoln might nominate for the presidency another John C. Calhoun?

    In my lifetime, having experienced the administrations of both George W. Bush AND Lyndon Johnson, I would suggest a Constituional amendment barring any Texan from being president. That may seem harsh, childish, and unreasonable, but it is also in line with the current level of political dialogue. :)

  3. freecitizen  July 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Democrats/Republicans running against each other for pres= The Clone Wars!

  4. Carl Nemo  July 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    What’s interesting is that if one takes the time to read Rick Perry’s Wiki bio, it’s soon realized that this guy just might appeal to America’s broad base of conservatives at all levels.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Perry

    This is not an endorsement for his candidacy, just an observation on my part post reading his bio.

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Almandine  July 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      All things to all people… don’t we already have a guy like that?

      Rick Perry is the BIGGEST globalist, North American Unionist, and illegal immigrationist around.

      • Carl Nemo  July 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm

        As I wrote Almandine, my comment was not an endorsement, but an observation. His Wiki background related bio seems to appeal to a broad base of the generally misinformed, highly emotional electorate of this nation.

        He has the possibility of pulling in enough ‘conservative based’ voters of all stripes from across the country into his camp, not mine or yours; but obviously, what we think, doesn’t count based on the current fix this nation finds itself.

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Almandine  July 19, 2011 at 9:19 pm

          Perry talks a good game… right up until pulling the trigger. Reminds of…?

    • griff  July 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      Unfortunately you’re probably right. And he’s playing it smart by not jumping in this early.

  5. egc52556  July 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Perry sees himself as the head of the Texas Evangelical Christian church, calling all citizens to prayer meetings for Jesus and imposing this theocratic agenda on everybody else.

    If he thinks he can score the vote of even one Jewish or Catholic or Atheist (or reasonable) person, he’s also delusional.

    How can this highly-partisaned theocrat pretend that he in any way would be a fair representative of America?

  6. Rick  July 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    And if Obama finishes a second term there will be some Dem getting into the 2016 race with a headline of “Another Left-Winger For Prez?”

  7. logtroll  July 19, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Jeez,

    The Texas drought got six times worser after Perry officially called for prayer to end it.

    I don’t think Gawd likes him… and he has more votes. Looks like the Bachwoman will stand for the ‘Pubs in ’12. Gawd ‘sposedly likes her and her gay manservant.

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