Why Rick Perry wouldn’t be a slam dunk in the primary

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Most people assume that if Texas Governor Rick Perry decides not to run for president, it will be because his folksy Texas swagger is too reminiscent of former President George W. Bush.

Bush and Perry aren’t terribly close, personally. Still, the assumption is that most Americans aren’t ready for another Texan of that mold —  not this soon, anyway.

But news that Newt Gingrich’s staff has abandoned him are sure to spark more speculation about a possible Perry run. This is largely because Perry’s top strategist (Dave Carney) and former campaign manager (Rob Johnson) were both on Team Newt.

Perry is, no doubt, one of the most likable and charismatic Republican leaders in the nation. There is little doubt he would be formidable.

But while Perry is currently popular among many national conservatives (a product of the primary challenge by moderate Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison — and of his early grasp of the significance of the Tea Party), it is important to remember that just a few short years ago, Perry was despised by many conservatives.

If Perry jumps in the race, primary voters will likely be reminded of how conservatives were outraged when he signed an executive order in 2007, making Texas the first state in the nation to mandate HPV vaccinations for sixth-grade girls.

They will be reminded that he endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008.

And, of course, his controversial plans to create a Trans-Texas Corridor (which were finally dropped after a large public outcry) would come up.

Perry’s charisman and charm would, of course, go a long way, and (as is evidenced by the current 2012 primary field) it’s true that every politician has some baggage to contend with. Still, the notion that Perry would ride in on a white horse and escape criticism is a fallacy.

Matt K. Lewis