Before Texas Governor Rick Perry threw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination for President there was only one other candidate that consistently polled number one – Mitt Romney. However, despite the organizational and financial advantage Romney had, which no doubt played an important role in his position among the Republican primary contenders, Perry has soared past him almost at the instant he made his formal announcement.
Make no mistake about it, Romney is absolutely not out of this race. In politics even the most powerful and loved candidate’s public image can come crashing down within a very short amount of time. But it should be very concerning for Romney when Gallup puts Perry in the top position by 12% only a few weeks after he announced his candidacy. Another poll has since come out showing Perry in a promising 13% lead. That is good news for Perry and bad news for Romney!
Governor Perry’s poll numbers are likely due to his strong message against the Obama administration and his support for limited government and states’ rights. Many tea party members or like-minded Americans have been drawn to his bold, non-apologetic message of limited government. His Reaganesque speech at the Republican Leadership Conference in Louisiana this past June is just one example:
“Let’s speak with pride about our morals and our values and redouble our efforts to elect more conservative Republicans. Let’s stop this downward American spiral.”
“I stand before you today as a disciplined, conservative Texan, a committed Republican and a proud American, united with you in the desire to restore our nation and revive the American dream.”
To a similar tune Perry recently took another courageous swipe at the federal government. This time it was at what is typically considered a political career killer – Social Security:
Speaking to a crowd in Iowa this weekend, the Texas governor and GOP presidential hopeful doubled down on statements he made in his book, Fed Up!, that Social Security is essentially a pyramid scheme.
“It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people,” Perry said. “The idea that they’re working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie. It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can’t do that to them.”
That is not a new comment from Perry (or this website: here and here), but it is one that continually causes liberals heads to explode. Understanding that Perry added: “If you’re for the status quo in America, I’m not your guy.” I’d also like to point out one of his strongest statements at the RLC: “Our opponents on the left are never going to like us so let’s stop trying to curry favor with them!”
With this all in the minds of Romney and his strategists, what is to be done about Perry? So far he has not gone on the offense, directly at least. Perhaps Romney believes that Perry is overplaying the tea party / limited government / very conservative cards and will end up losing all of his chips. If that is the general thought in the Romney camp then the best strategy may be to let the Democrats take out Perry:
Romney has been criticized for refusing to engage Perry, but his campaign advisers see no need to do so now. They point out that the Democratic National Committee is going after Perry, hundreds of reporters hoping to make names for themselves are scouring his life and record, and other candidates that Perry has passed in the polls are determined to take him down. Why should Romney attack Perry directly when the Democrats, the liberal media and Michele Bachmann will do it for him? Romney’s strategists note that Perry will have to survive five debates in six weeks — ample opportunity for Bachmann to “rip his eyes out” (as she did to Tim Pawlenty) or for Perry to blow himself up.
That Washington Post piece adds that Romney is prepared to take on Perry’s position on Social Security as well as his job performance on illegal immigration in Texas when and if the time comes:
Romney strategists are quick to note that in his book, “Fed Up!,” Perry writes that “By any measure, Social Security is a failure” and calls the program “something we have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now” that was created “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”
Look at what happened to Paul Ryan when he proposed a plan to save Medicare, they say. Romney’s campaign will argue that Perry is against the very idea of Social Security and Medicare, and that he will use Perry’s book to scare seniors in early-primary states with large retiree populations, such as Florida and South Carolina.
The Romney campaign also plans to use immigration to drive a wedge between Perry and his conservative base, by highlighting Perry’s opposition to a border fence and legislation he signed in 2001 allowing the children of illegal immigrants to attend Texas colleges and universities at in-state tuition.
I never considered Romney a shoo-in candidate, but to me he seemed the best one capable winning the appeal of most primary voters. Now with Perry in the race Romney has his work cut out for him. The next few debates will be very interesting to watch as these two start to take each other on. Bachmann and Paul will add some spice to the mix too. Still, even though I am hardly a political strategist, consultant, or pollster I am confident that this race will come down to the two candidates that not only have a solid message, but also possess the presidential leadership qualities Americans are craving for as well as the resume to back it up. While I am not endorsing either candidate it is my opinion that Perry and Romney will be the two Republicans battling it out for the nomination late in the primaries.