Texas Gov. Rick Perry has taken Michele Bachmann's position as the "anti-Romney". He was billed, prior to entering the race last month, as a conservative's conservative, the longest-serving governor in a state that had added 1/3 of all the jobs added nationwide since the recession. He is not shy about showing his Christian faith, holding a high-profile stadium prayer rally just before entering the race. He brags of carrying a laser-sighted pistol with him while he walks his dog, using it to shoot a coyote. He was, in short, a Tea Party wet dream.
Upon entering the race, he shot to the top of the polls. Unfortunately for him, his position invited lots of scrutiny and attacks, and multiple cracks have shown. His main strength, his jobs record, has been shown to be largely a mirage, with a study showing that 81% of the jobs created in Texas going to immigrants, which doesn't play well with Republican voters. Many of the jobs created were also government jobs. Others were poachedfrom other states, making his model difficiult to apply nationwide.
More generally, he's shown himself to be, well, kind of dumb. His debate performance have hurt his campaign rather significantly, particularly his debacle in last Thursday's debate. A video of an answer about abstinence-only education emerged that showed his complete inability to articulate a position or use facts to support his argument. He defended his policy of giving in-state tuition rates to children of illegal immigrants by saying those who don't support it "don't have a heart." Not exactly a good way to get votes in a GOP primary.
It's particularly unfortunate for him that he doesn't have great rhetorical skills, with the number of questionable positions he has to defend. In his book "Fed Up", he called Social Security unconstitutional and ""a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal." He now says he wants to reform the program but hasn't really addressed the "unconstitutional" attack. Given how popular it is, particularly with older people (who tend to vote more), he needs to come up with a better answer.
He has also taken a lot of heat for issuing an executive order requiring girls to get the HPV vaccine, making Texas the first state to require it. While the HPV vaccine is a great thing that I personally think each and every girl should get, there was some appearence of "crony capitalism" in how the order came about. Perry's former chief of staff was a lobbying for the vaccine's maker, Merck. Perry also received about $29,500 from Merck since 2000. Merck has also donated $352,500 to the Republican Governors Association since Perry became active in that organization in 2006.
And he let his state murder a guy and has since been covering it up.
In sum, Perry is Bush circa 2000 but with a worse record as governor and more controversial positions to have to defend. Bush wasn't a great orator, but he didn't really have all that much as governor to answer for. Unless Perry starts showing more skill on the campaign trail, Romney's looking pretty good for the nomination. More on him next post.