Fresh from delivering a major address to the RNC, Texas Gov. Rick Perry as GOP presidential candidate is going viral even while the candidate himself insists that he is not running. On that, I believe him. I do not think he is running. But I also believe he should, and may be persuaded to, reconsider. Here are a few of the reasons the Texas governor would make a formidable candidate for the presidency.
Gov. Perry has been governor of the nation’s second largest state for 10 years, and was Lt Gov, Agriculture Commissioner and a legislator before that. Texas geography, population and economy make it larger than most countries, thus, experience at the helm of Texas is excellent preparation for the presidency. There is a negative in all that, that Perry can fairly be called a “career politician,” but he is one career politician who has a real record to tout and who has retained his deep skepticism of government as the source of all our answers. Texas under Perry’s watch has avoided the dire straits the other large states find themselves in, and it has consistently been the nation’s economic leader, creating more jobs and winning more accolades than any other state. Texas’ housing market has been the nation’s most stable during Perry’s watch, and Americans keep voting with their feet by making Texas the nation’s top interstate migration destination. Perry does not deserve all of the credit for this record, but he does deserve a good share of it, because during his tenure the often divided Texas government, in which 29 major offices are elected statewide, has functioned as a unified team with Perry in the lead. This team has kept Texas’ tax burden low despite hard times, and has kept Texas’ government among the smallest in the nation. Rick Perry is, as he is quick to mention, not George W. Bush. If he ran for president the comparison would be unavoidable, but Perry’s record is to the right of Bush’s. Perry is in many ways the man the liberals feared George W. Bush was, but Perry is a better stump speaker and has served in office at more levels than his predecessor.
Until 1989, Rick Perry was a conservative Democrat. He switched parties as, like many Democrats including Ronald Reagan and Phil Gramm, he saw that party moving farther and farther to the left. Under Perry’s decade as governor, hundreds of Texas Democrats have followed his lead and become Republicans. As a former Democrat, Perry can speak to that swath of his former party that has become disenchanted with their party as President Obama has taken it even farther to the left, in a way that few Republicans can. He can also speak well and credibly to all wings of the national GOP, from the fiscal cons to the social cons to the libertarian set.
Texas has historically turned governors out of office after one term. George W. Bush broke that pattern when he was re-elected to consecutive terms in 1998. Gov. Perry has shattered that pattern, winning in 2002, 2006 and 2010 — the last, in a landslide. He is arguably the best campaigner Texas has ever produced, and assembles campaign teams around himself that flood the zone, using social media and cutting edge fundraising tools in ways that few GOP campaigns can match. Perry’s teams turn their opponents against themselves and skillfully use the media as both messenger and foil. The experience of running and winning statewide in Texas, a state with 254 counties and five major media markets, has prepared him and his team well to take their skills national.
The Republican faithful are currently disenchanted with the entire crop of candidates. None of the current crop seem to be able to take on President Obama and force him to defend his record. Rick Perry has been running against Obama for two years, and has established himself as one the president’s most forceful critics. He has already road tested much of the message he would presumably use over the next 18 months, and has already won on it. Additionally, his personality is 180 degrees apart from Obama’s. Where the president comes off as mysterious, aloof and distant, Perry is what you see is what you get: Approachable and genuine. He is literally a straight shooter, to the point that he is the only governor in America who had a gun named after him. Rick Perry would also bring out the absolute worst in the Democrats. They would quickly move from denouncing him as a person to everything he stands for and everything he has ever done. They will trash Texas (more than they already do). They will lie that he is a “secessionist” (he is not) and if the 2010 campaign was any guide, they will lie about him as a person as well. The far left’s hostility will consume them and their party along with them, making them easier to distract and defeat.
Right now, Gov. Perry’s name recognition outside the state of Texas is not high. There are spots here and there in his record that will have to be vetted, most notably the Trans-Texas Corridor. He is not a perfect candidate, but such a candidate does not exist and never has. But Perry is one of the few potential candidates with both the skill and record to build a credible national effort quickly, and turn the national political landscape around in his favor. If he were to run, Rick Perry would be a very strong candidate.
Update: Erick Erickson says that Mitch Daniels’ decision on running, and how that plays, could impact Perry’s ultimate decision. I think Erick is making a good point. Perry will only run if he is drafted; it will take continued angst with the current field to get that draft going.