Here in Texas, Governor Rick Perry’s political aspirations are often talked about. And the discussion is only growing louder. The words “PERRY FOR PRESIDENT?!?: IT’S NOT ABOUT 2010. IT’S ABOUT 2012. TRUST ME” headlined a February 2009 Texas Monthly cover, and a recent Real Clear Politics article suggests Perry may soon join the currently unimpressive field of 2012 GOP presidential candidates. A Perry candidacy, though, is not in the best interests of the nation or Republican Party.
Rick Perry has some obvious political strengths. He chairs the Republican Governors Association and has occupied the Texas governor’s mansion longer than any other governor in history. He is also a bona fide conservative, which distinguishes him sharply from the alleged GOP front-runner, Mitt Romney. Perry certainly has a role to play, in Texas and on the national stage, but it’s not in the Republican presidential race.
Firstly, he, or at least the image he projects, is too radical for presidential politics. While Perry is most likely more serious and mainstream than his most newsworthy antics, the personal image he cultivates is extreme. A man who garnered national headlines for hinting Texas could secede from the Union if Obama continued to press his agenda is hardly fit to be president of the Union. Granted, Perry was probably just trying to enhance his political visibility and inflate Texan egos with such talk of secession, but the extremely anti-Washington public stance he has taken cannot be ignored. It’s difficult to imagine Barack Obama, John McCain, or Hillary Clinton making such comments. Perry’s radicalism and Tea Party-inspired sensationalist politics mean he cannot win the presidency, and his candidacy would damage the GOP field. The Republican primary needs more serious, possibly even bland, faces. It needs more people like Tim Pawlenty and Mitch Daniels– people who, even if and when they don’t win the nomination, make the nominee that defeats them appear legitimate and qualified. Perry is more of a Trump or Palin style candidate and would only make the field look more radical, and frankly, unprofessional. Perry deserves considerable credit for ably managing Texas affairs for so long, but the politically extreme personal image he has created appears to lack seriousness and professionalism. Since Perry will almost certainly not win the 2012 presidential election, this appearance, and its effect on the GOP primary, is crucial.
Republicans can win the 2012 election by focusing on the economy. Unemployment and gas prices remain high, and the principal issue in the next election will be the economy. Republicans would be better off selecting a nominee with concrete business credentials like Mitt Romney than one who simply touts general conservative principles. Though Perry has overseen a seemingly strong Texas economy, rumors and reports that the Lone Star economy isn’t as stable as it appears are persistent. It’s also worth noting that Perry succeeded George W. Bush as Texas governor, and the American people may be tired of Texas governors as presidents. Even though it might not be rational to hold Perry accountable for his predecessor’s actions, voters aren’t always rational.
Rick Perry might be a strong presidential candidate under different circumstances, and his calls for a return to conservative basics in a Republican Party that has seemingly lost its way might find resonance nationally. For 2012, though, Perry is too radical and too Teaparty–or at least appears too radical and too Teaparty–to improve the GOP field. Criticizing the Obama administration and vocally reminding Republicans of their conservative tenets should remain Perry’s primary contributions to national political discourse. Perry belongs in Austin, not Washington.
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