Rick Perry: Election 2012 Preview

This article is part of an occasional series of articles looking at the contenders for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination.

Rick Perry replaced George W. Bush in the Texas Governor’s Mansion when Mr. Bush won the White House in 2000. He’s been there ever since. But recent reports say Perry is looking for a promotion, and he’s widely expected to jump into the presidential race by August.

If Mr. Perry wins in 2012, it would mean two Texas Republican governors would serve on both sides of President Obama’s Administration. Would the idea of a Perry presidency be too much of a blast from the past for voters, or is America ready to embrace a politician from the Lone Star State once again?

This series is looking at the contenders through a prism of their communications skills. Since the beginning of the 24/7 media age in 1980, there have been eight presidential elections. The winners of all eight general election races have had the same seven winning traits. Mr. Perry has some of them, but does he have enough?

Gov. Perry clearly reflects the anger so many Americans share regarding the U.S. economy, even going so far as to call President Obama “anti-job.” He’s not afraid to throw red meat to the base, and he is well aligned on the issues with many voters, particularly those voting in the Republican primary.

Whether or not you agree with his solution, he does present a clear vision for what a Perry Administration would look like:

“We have a spending problem in this country. And a tax structure problem. We’re putting way too much burden on job creators with taxes, with regulation, with litigation. All three of those are the key to getting our economy back on track. You reduce the taxes as much as you can while you continue to deliver the services that are demanded by the population out there.”


And he does a good job of deflecting a potentially toxic question about Hispanic voters by transitioning back to his message:

“I think the Hispanic population in the country is no different from the Anglo population or the Asian population. They want to live in a state where they can be free from over-taxation, over-litigation. They wanna be able to have good schools for their kids and have a wide open future.”


If Mr. Perry’s understated performance in the Fox News interview doesn’t suggest he’s a particularly charismatic speaker, check out this recent high-profile speech. In it, Mr. Perry demonstrated his unquestionable charisma as a speaker who can rally a crowd. It’s a safe bet that the same conservatives who dismissed President Obama for merely giving a good speech will praise Mr. Perry’s considerable oratorical skills.

Rick Perry Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Still, some big questions remain about Mr. Perry. Chief among them is that his accent and mannerisms evoke an instant association with George W. Bush. Like Mr. Bush, Perry is not a particularly strong extemporaneous speaker (he’s better with a script).

It’s also unclear how he will perform in a long, national campaign under unending media scrutiny. If his 2009 statement suggesting that Texas might secede from the United States is any indication, he could be prone to some major gaffes that take his campaign far off message.

Although Perry reflects the nation’s anger, he’ll need to be mindful of America’s historical preference for electing the sunnier candidate with the more optimistic message. He’ll need to do optimism as well as he does anger.

A race between Governor Perry and President Obama would be an epic battle between two polar opposites. If Americans are ready for another Texas leader with a drawl, Mr. Perry could be a tough opponent to beat.


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Related: Scorecard: June 13 Republican Debate

Related: Jon Huntsman: Election 2012 Preview