He has the Tea Party charisma of Sarah Palin, the thoughtless Lone Star swagger of George W. Bush, and the secessional political instincts of Jefferson Davis. Meet the man who very well could be the GOP standard bearer for president in 2012: Governor Rick Perry of Texas.
Before much of the country gets to know Perry, Republicans in the early primary and caucus states — places like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — will have the first dance. And with such a large GOP field of candidates, these voters are likely to encounter an image of Governor Perry far different from the one he’d like to project.
Let’s be honest, GOP presidential primary voters are far more conservative than many who end up voting for their party let alone independents who could be swayed either way with the right message.
So what will these voters think when someone, perhaps Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann, points out that Perry was elected not once but three times as a Democrat, voted for what remains today the largest tax increase in modern Texas history, and even served as state chairman of Al Gore’s first run for president?
I’m guessing it will be a bit tough to swallow.
Of course, you may be asking yourself, “what about his time in the GOP? Heck, he’s been the Republican governor of Texas ever since George W. Bush became president in 2001. That’s more than a decade.”
Perry’s record as governor is likely to ruffle the feathers of at least a few Republican base voters as well. Especially if someone, say current front-runner Mitt Romney lets it slip that the Lone Star State’s debt has nearly tripled to more than $34 billion since Perry became governor and that only through accounting gimmicks worthy of Enron can the Texas state budget be considered balanced.
It is easy to see why Perry’s road to the Republican nomination will be anything but a cakewalk. But should he survive the path becomes even more complicated as he attempts to win over moderates and independents. Such voters are not likely to be persuaded by the Governor’s unique brand of conservatism.
If George W. Bush led “compassionate conservatives,” then Rick Perry is claiming the mantle of “crazy conservatives.”
Speaking to a Tea Party crowd just three months after President Obama took office, Perry said, “if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people” Texas “might” have to secede from the Union. Talk from a southern governor about the possible need to leave a United States led by its first African-American president isn’t likely to engender much support from middle-of-the-road voters.
Given such ridiculousness, the optics of a Perry candidacy for the White House could be considered absurd. Think about it — a man who openly talked of secession runs for president of the same country he would have seceded from just a few years earlier. It’s a move that would make Jefferson Davis blush.
While Davis blushes from the grave, former Bush FEMA chief Michael “heckuva job Brownie” would be positively jealous of Perry’s response to the wildfires that engulfed much of his state’s landmass this year.
For months Governor Perry attacked the Obama administration for a purported lack of involvement in efforts to squelch the wildfires, when in fact the administration paid for much of the effort and offered 26 different kinds of federal assistance in addition.
To Perry, it mattered little that he’d only spoken of secession in 2009 because he believes the federal government meddles too much with states’ rights — you know, basically the same history-ignoring reason southern apologists give for why we fought the Civil War.
Meanwhile, as the wildfires burned more than 2.5 million acres, Republicans in the Texas legislature under Perry’s thumb sough to cut millions from fire fighting and the state agency responsible for fire prevention.
If it makes your head spin you might not be alone for very long.
Perry is near the top in many national and early GOP primary state polls. I suppose it says something about the crop of candidates vying for the Republican nomination and their party more broadly, that Perry could emerge as an instant front-runner in the field.
Fortunately for us, what it says about the Republicans isn’t all that promising about their prospects in 2012.
Copyright © 2011 KarlFrisch.com.
Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and Democratic strategist at Bullfight Strategies in Washington, DC. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns and updates by email.
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