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Base Rhetoric: Rick Perry Sure Sounds Like He's Running for President

by: Katherine Haenschen

Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 02:57 PM CDT

Rick Perry sure sounds like he's running for President. He's visiting Republican strongholds and swing states alike to introduce himself to donors, activists, and party leaders. He's sharpening his rhetoric to hone in on social issues that score well with Republican primary voters. He's making a concerted effort to not only become the evangelical of choice for the Religious Far-Right, but also organize communities of faith in the process.

And make no mistake -- Perry poses a particular threat as a candidate for President or Vice President: he could conceivably unite the Religious Right, Tea Party types, and "let them eat cake" business interests, forming the kind of coalition that elected the most recent Texas Governor to make a presidential run, George W Bush.

Perry's rising in the polls, and I think it's exactly because he represents a viable common choice for the various special interests and groups that dominate Republican politics. In a recent post by Nate Silver on Pawlenty's chances, he noted that voters who liked Pawlenty were still likely to choose another candidate over him. Essentially, Perry could be that alternative choice for supporters of many of the other GOP nope-fuls, positioning himself as the strongest anti-Obama contender and peeling off the soft support of other candidates in the race. (Side note: mildly alarmed that Nate Silver compares my favorite beer to Ron Paul. Gag.)

So what are some of the signals that Perry's laying a grassroots foundation for a Presidential bid?

He's Hard-Core Courting the Religious Right. Perry's never been a stranger to the folks who really don't understand the existence -- let alone importance -- of a separation of church and state. His prayer rally at Reliant next month is a huge way for his nascent campaign to start organizing right-wing religious voters. The event can be promoted by religious organizations since it is, essentially, a religious event. Churches can sign up to live-stream the event locally, and individuals can host a house-party type event themselves. From a grassroots list- and constituency-building standpoint, it's huge. These are the overzealous volunteers, and a huge component of the activist base for Republicans.

Even more disconcerting from a policy standpoint are his comments to a group of evangelicals back in May, where Perry basically stated that we need to hand our nation's problems over to God to sort out. Salon quotes Perry as saying, "And I think it's time for us to just hand it over to God and say, 'God, You're going to have to fix this.'" (Personally I think God better priorities than instituting draconian Tort Reforms that deny regular citizens their day in court, but evidently that's just me.)

He's Taking a Harsher Anti-Immigrant Stance. Perry's always been fairly moderate on immigration issues as Governor of Texas, and has enjoyed not-abysmal support from Latino voters. Yet towards the end of the special session, Perry was pulling out all the stops to pass the rabidly anti-immigrant sanctuary cities bill, even publicly chastising Sen. Robert Duncan for not adding it to the budget bill. Melissa del Bosque has a must-read article in the Texas Observer detailing Perry's desire to pass the bill over opposition from the likes of Bob Perry and Charles Butts (whose businesses presumably rely on plenty of undocumented immigrant laborers at various points in the supply-chain). I wouldn't go so far as to say that Perry is shunning big-business entirely, but he's definitely decided that playing to the rabidly anti-immigrant Republican voter base is more important right now than sucking up to the corporatists who would undoubtedly still back him as GOP nominee.

It's important to note that efforts like the sanctuary cities bill take their terrible toll not necessarily on immigration per se, but the human immigrants themselves. Perry, who just last year questioned Arizona's draconian SB 1070 from a law-enforcement perspective, now wants Texas to pass a bill that allows a check on an individual's immigration status at any intersection with law enforcement, and would in all likelihood have had extremely harmful effects on public safety in minority and immigrant communities.

Oh, and last week he also executed a Mexican national without ever giving the man access to consular representation, International Law and the Vienna Convention be damned.

He's Ramping up Rhetoric on Abortion. Fresh off forcing a vaginal probe into the abortion-seeking women of Texas, Perry has continued to promote his anti-choice agenda. Last weekend Perry attended an event for anti-choice Hispanic voters in California, railing on Obama's overturning of Bush's global gag rule, which prevented US funds from going to international groups that performed abortions. Perry has upped his anti-abortion rhetoric in a lot of early pre-campaign appearances. It's an issue on which he has a huge record of coming between a woman and her right to choose. And it resonates extremely well with far-right Republicans, and the more zealous activist-types.


Again, the key take-away here is that Perry represents a strong opportunity for the GOP to unite the various factions of the party that came together to keep George W. Bush in office for two terms. Most importantly, Perry seems to be going after the most active, zealous segments of the Republican party early on. It makes sense -- scoop up the die-hards and activists early on who will do the work. He's pushing buttons that have strong reactions from the GOP faithful. And as other candidates fail to gain broader traction, he may begin to look more and more like the best anti-Obama choice the GOP has this year.

And that should be a really scary thought to all of us in Texas. We've seen the man win elections, and we've seen what he does as Governor. We understand the full degree to which a Perry presidency would wreak havoc on our nation. Replication of his failed policies here in Texas on a national scale would be an unmitigated disaster.

Seems like it's high time for those of us in Texas to start shouting from the rooftops exactly how bad Rick Perry is, and what it would mean for America if he were somehow to get elected President.  

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

More Polling: Perry Leads all GOP Nope-fuls in TX Primary

by: Katherine Haenschen

Fri Jul 08, 2011 at 02:14 PM CDT

Yesterday, we looked at a PPP poll that shows how lukewarm the general voting public is on a Rick Perry presidential bid, as he currently narrowly trails Obama. However, it's a different story here in Texas in a potential Republican primary, where Perry leads the rest of the GOP brigade right now. From the poll:

If Rick Perry ran for president, and the choices were Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney, who would you most like to see as the nominee?
Rick Perry  31%
Mitt Romney 15%
Michele Bachmann 11%
Sarah Palin 9%
Ron Paul 9%
Newt Gingrich 8%
Herman Cain 6%
Tim Pawlenty 2%
Dear God, Please, Someone Else/Not Sure 9%

According to PPP, Perry has surged into the lead since January, when they last ran this poll:

When PPP looked at Texas in January only 9% of Republicans said Perry was their top choice, putting him in 6th place overall and well behind Mike Huckabee's 24%. But Perry's shown a lot more interest in a bid since then, Huckabee's out of the picture, and Gingrich who was in second place at 17% in January has tanked. Perry has likely picked up a lot of the lost support of his fellow southern candidates in the race.

This seems to echo other national analysis I've read on the Republican primary field--essentially Perry is running strong in the South, but seems to be alienating northern / coastal Republicans.

If Perry were not to run, what then?

If Sarah Palin didn't run, and the choices were just Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney, who would you most like to see as the nominee?
Michele Bachmann 19%
Herman Cain 10%
Newt Gingrich 13%
Jon Huntsman 5%
Ron Paul 12%
Tim Pawlenty 7%
Mitt Romney 21%
Seriously, Why Do I Have to Pick Between These Jokes/Not sure 13%

PPP sez:

Those numbers show what's becoming a pretty common pattern--Bachmann leads Romney 22-15 with the 'very conservative' voters who constitute the largest segment of the Republican electorate. But Romney's strength in the middle- leading Bachmann 19-9 with moderates and 21-13 with 'somewhat conservative' voters gives him the overall advantage.

It's an interesting contrast in electorates. A statewide poll shows Perry losing by 2 points in a General Election match-up with Obama (though the 8% of undecideds are pretty anti-Obama in general). In that poll, Perry has a gaping chasm of support from self-described "Independents," 62% of whom view him unfavorably. Yet he runs very strongly with the Republican base, a plurality of which are self-described "very conservative" individuals.

These results are somewhat akin to Nate Silver's great post on how Republican voters, both primary and general-election, are overwhelmingly very conservative, rather than the mix of independents and moderate Republicans we've seen in the past. It's worth a read.  

In any case, while the majority of Texans love America too much to want to see Rick Perry to run for President, our Governor still enjoys strong support from the die-hard base here in Texas. That should be concern to all of us, especially if he starts to take hold with Republicans in the many early primary states he's been visiting.  

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

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