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Rick Perry and the GOP’s ‘Texas option’

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Stewart Lawrence
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      Stewart Lawrence

      Stewart J. Lawrence is a Washington, D.C.-based public policy analyst who writes frequently on immigration and Latino affairs. He is also founder and managing director of Puentes & Associates, Inc., a bilingual survey research and communications firm.

Should the Republican Party draft Texas Gov. Rick Perry as its presidential standard-bearer in 2012?

With the recent exits of Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich’s seemingly endless gaffes and pratfalls, and the steadfast refusal of other GOP favorites like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to join the race, conservatives are beginning to whisper loudly about Perry.

Officially, the 61-year-old native Texan, who was just re-elected to his third full term, isn’t running. Unofficially, it’s obvious he’s interested — in fact, his top aides are quietly putting out feelers. But, like George W. Bush in 1999, Perry wants the GOP to ask him to run — or perhaps “beg” would be a better word.

And if current trends hold, it well might — and soon.

Consider what Perry would bring to the race:

Jobs. Perry has already transformed Texas into the largest job incubator in the nation at a time when President Obama and the Democrats are being blamed for failing to reduce near-record level joblessness. Perry has offered special tax breaks to companies willing to relocate and open production facilities in his state — and they’ve responded in droves. Other GOP candidates — like the recently departed Daniels — can boast a track record tackling the deficit. But none has Perry’s standing on jobs.

Obamacare. Perry has been a steadfast critic of Obamacare and has refused to entertain compromises of the kind that may well doom the candidacies of Gingrich and Mitt Romney. And unlike two other Southern governors, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Nathan Deal in Georgia, who’ve tried to hedge their bets politically, Perry has discouraged Texas legislators from even introducing legislation to support a state-based Obamacare health benefits exchange. Perry’s tough position will place him squarely in the conservative Tea Party camp, alongside of Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.

Social issues. Unlike Mitch Daniels, who alienated the GOP base months ago by insisting on a “truce” on social issues, Perry is also a tried and true social conservative who remains an outspoken opponent of abortion. He just signed into law a measure that requires women seeking abortions to agree to a sonogram, as well as a vehicle license plate bill giving Texas motorists the option of promoting a “pro-life” message. These highly symbolic moves will resonate with evangelical voters and could allow Perry to run strongly in the South and in the Iowa caucuses, where the race, post-Huckabee, is wide open.

The border. Perry is a border hawk, but he’s managed to craft a nuanced position that allows him to draw in a wide range of political constituencies. Unlike much of the GOP, he opposes an Arizona-style crackdown law, saying it’s not needed in Texas. He’s also criticized the U.S.-Mexico border fence, which many conservative landowners with affected properties along the border also oppose. Instead, Perry advocates stepped-up use of the National Guard and border patrol agents, as well as the introduction of Predator drones to maintain better surveillance of illegal immigrants and drug gangs. He opposes Obama’s “amnesty” plan, including the more limited DREAM Act.

Hispanics. Thanks in part to his immigration views, Perry has also managed to increase his support among the nation’s fastest-growing voter group, at a time when many Republicans haven’t. Last November, Perry claimed nearly 40% of the Hispanic vote in his general election race against Democrat Bill White — up from roughly 33% three years earlier — which helped power him to a blistering double-digit victory. Perry’s immigration formula could ensure that the GOP retains its high percentage of white voters while attracting a healthy share of the national Hispanic electorate, dooming Obama’s re-election. His candidacy also provides a huge firewall against Democratic attempts to take back the Lone Star State.

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  • shortitalian

    I admire Rick Perry,I voted for him as Governor and I would vote for him again.He is not afraid of “obummer”.If he does decide to run and win,maybe the idiot in the White House can go back to Kenya or wherever the Muslims hang out.

  • caseyinaustin

    Perry is a good-ol-boy lifetime politician. How he keeps a “small government” persona is surprising, especially after trying to require girls to take Gardasil. Do some research into his ties with Merck and you’ll see the kind of dealing he’s known for in Texas. If looking for someone that will truely stand for a small government, look no further than fellow Texan, Ron Paul.

  • Rocketman

    Run, Rick, RUN !!
    In an otherwise, boring, white breaded, re-treaded, establishment elítes, the good Governor would be a breath of fresh air.
    Pretty Please?

    ~(Ä)~

  • Old Timer

    While Rick Perry may have a persona that some find attractive, he is not exactly what he seems on the surface. I assume with the NAFTA Super highway comment you were referring to the Trans-Texas corridor projects which would have taken millions of acres of land from private land owners under eminent domain and turned it over to Spanish toll road operators. It got dropped because the number of law suits it was on the verge of generating would have been unbelievable, not to mention questions being raised of just how many hands were under the table. It was not a “voluntary” drop of the project, more like forced.

    Bottom line is Rick Perry would be unable to overcome all the allegations that would come flying in a Presidential campaign because some of them would probably be proven correct.

  • Bayou Babe

    A possible Perry candidacy fascinates me. He brings strength, savvy and solid experience. He has the sizzle Pawlenty, thus far, lacks. Moreover, when his constituents loudy opposed the NAFTA Superhighway, he actually listened and changed direction. That is a hallmark of a good leader.