by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Two portraits emerge.
One is of a wiser, seasoned executive ready to jump into a race already rich with governors. He’s armed with more reliable conservatism than that of Chris Christie; and he has a meatier résumé than Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, or Mike Pence. This portrait features Perry’s proud record of protecting his state from the scourges of the Obama years, racking up stretches of job creation and growth that have far outpaced the stagnant national economy. It also features his unapologetic recruiting of employers and residents from right under the noses of liberal governors in states lumbering under the weight of expansionist governance. Around my outpost in Texas, I meet these newcomers all the time. They are transplanted Californians and New Yorkers who confess they will miss the Pacific beaches or the Manhattan skyline; they will not miss the suffocating taxes and regulatory environments of their prior homes.
But as they arrive in Rick Perry’s Texas, another portrait emerges of the governor who may seek to become our next Texan president. This one depicts a candidate far too conservative to capture independent voters in a general election, and it shows a man whose previous White House run collapsed under the harsh lights of national scrutiny.
So which one is the real Rick Perry? …
… I’m not suggesting Perry will be the 45th president or even the GOP nominee. I am suggesting that no one should underestimate him.
Republicans fret often about how to attract the elusive votes of Hispanics and independents. Perry won 38 percent of the Latino vote in his last election, compared with Romney’s 27 percent nationally in 2012.
As for independents and voters less ideologically wired, they will be looking for results. One does not need a conservative lens to see Perry’s compelling achievement in Texas of withstanding the major economic downturn of our age. Hardcore Hillary voters will probably not be ordering Perry yard signs. But if he speaks skillfully to moderates, with an upbeat message about the ideas he has successfully implemented, he could find takers among voters open to new directions after years of a struggling presidency.