Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry immediately created major waves in the Republican presidential pool when he announced his candidacy, with a Rasmussen poll shortly after his Aug. 13 statement giving him a double-digit lead over rivals former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
But when a candidate moves from a statewide to a national stage, it’s often those who know him best and have worked with him most closely who can assess his impact most accurately.
In Perry’s case, state-level leaders say he’s a Texan who speaks his mind and has a lot of very good things to say. He’s strayed occasionally from a traditionally conservative platform but has admitted mistakes on some of those occasions, they say.
Texas Eagle Forum leader Pat Carlson said she personally supports Perry’s campaign.
“He’s the only candidate in the race right now that I think has a chance to win, and I fully support him,” Carlson said.
The governor has done a good job representing Eagle Forum’s positions on the issues, she said.
“He’s not perfect. I was opposed to the executive order on the HPV virus vaccination, but to his credit he’s come out and said he was mistaken,” Carlson said.
“However he’s done a very good job, and because he’s done such a good job on so many issues, not just social but fiscal issues. He’s right on so many of our issues across the board that we are engaged in and support, so I think he’s done a very good job,” Carlson added.
In Texas the National Rifle Association affiliate is the Texas State Rifle Association, where Legislative Director Alice Tripp says that Perry’s record shows he’s supportive of the Second Amendment.
“We’re talking about Second Amendment rights here. From the perspective of Second Amendment rights, he is 100 plus percent. He’s accessible,” Tripp said.
“Be it hunting, be it the right to self-defense, be it the right to gun ownership, he has always been very reasonable, very accessible and very supportive of Second Amendment rights in Texas,” Tripp added.
Tripp cited one legislative example of Perry’s support for the Second Amendment.
“Texas law had a requirement that a person who is being threatened in their homes had a duty to retreat – the victim. The victim had a duty to look for a way to retreat before they could use deadly force to defend themselves in their own home,” Tripp said.
“It was pretty outrageous that you should look for a way to run before you could defend yourself in your own home,” she added.
“The legislature unanimously passed a bill changing the law and I believe it was one of the first bills that Gov. Perry signed while the legislative session was still going on, I believe in 2007,” she said.
Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford says Perry’s entry into the GOP presidential race is a plus.
“The issues that we focus on; we have sanctity of life, you have the marriage issue, marriage being a man and a woman, which he’s done a number of things on, and you have religious liberty, where he’s not only led the way on a state statute, but actually tried to get through a constitutional Amendment providing strong religious liberty protection,” Shackelford said.
“You have his notoriously telling the EPA to get lost, his education positions have been really strong. He turned down the $800-plus million in federal funds because he thinks education should be locally controlled. He doesn’t want the federal mandates on education,” Shackelford said.
“It’s a lot of different areas where there have been actions that back up the words. Anyone who’s doing good things, we like to see them out there making a difference. Win or lose, they move the whole debate. He’s done a lot of good things while he’s been governor,” he said.
East Texas Tea Party Patriots leader and radio talk show host Jeff Akin says that Perry stands for the things in which Texans believe, such as independence and freedom. But he said some tea party leaders have opposed some of his policy decisions.
Listen to an interview with Akin:
“He’s had some issues with tea party folks, including trying to force young girls to have vaccinations against a certain type of disease,” Akin said.
Many tea party leaders also opposed Perry’s promotion of the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor, the so-called NAFTA Superhighway.
However, Akin believes that overall, Perry stands on solid ground.
“We say this in politics in Texas. Sometimes you have to hold your nose when you hold hands with somebody. At this critical juncture of the game, Gov. Perry seems to have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to take to beat the current administration,” Akin said.
Some Republican pundits are concerned about what some have said is Perry’s abrasive manner.
However, Perry’s direct tone doesn’t concern West Texas Tea Party
coordinator Bo Fryar, who says the sometimes rough tone is because Perry is talking like a Texan.
“Anywhere Rick Perry is, there’s going to be some waves. He is one of those guys that pretty much says what he thinks, which most Texans do,” Fryar said.
Not all Republican pundits see it that way. The Hill reported that some GOP strategists are taking note of Perry’s word choices.
“(The harsh tone) was exhibited once again on Monday when he used the words ‘almost treasonous’ to describe the prospect of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke injecting new money into the financial system,” The Hill reported.
But despite what some perceive as a brusque manner, Fryar said that Perry’s basic principles are solid.
“There are some things with him I don’t agree with, however some of the basic values he has are some that I also have,” Fryar added. “He’s in favor of very limited government. He is also strongly supportive of state’s rights.”
Fryar added that Perry’s strongest point is his handling of the Texas economy.
“Just looking at the jobs situation he has created a good climate for companies to come into our state. We have a good (corporate) tax rate for a good tax base,” he observed.
“I certainly think he exhibits fiscal responsibility even though it’s in our Constitution to have a balanced budget,” Fryar said.
Perry’s record on illegal immigration has put him at odds with some constitutional conservatives, including Americans for Legal Immigration PAC President William Gheen.
“Gov. Perry is very eager to appear tough on illegal immigration, but upon closer inspection he’s part of the problem,” said Gheen, according to the AP.
Akin believes that Perry’s focus is on border security.
But some issues extended beyond a governor’s control, Akin said.
“Perry has been critical of the current administration [for] not giving us in Texas the necessary support we need to deal with immigration, not only to secure our borders but even with ICE not coming in to get folks we pick up here in Texas,” Akin said.
“I have a good friend of mine who’s a sheriff. He was telling me the other day that they can arrest all the illegals they want, but ICE will not come get them. That’s a real problem,” he said.
Akin said he hopes Perry “will stand firm” on illegal immigration and secure the Texas border with Mexico.
Perry also has taken some heat because of his measure that allowed in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants.
A Republican political commentator noted that the bill that passed the Texas Legislature had some requirements.
“Under the law, any student ‘who has lived in Texas at least three years and graduated from a Texas high school qualifies for in-state tuition.’ The law also requires noncitizens to apply for citizenship,” the report said.
Akin also says charges that Perry rejected a Texas bill similar to Arizona’s tough immigration law missed the point.
“In Texas we have more leeway with our law enforcement, and that was part of the issue. But with Gov. Perry, I think what you want to do is concentrate more on the border and not put a lot more burden on law enforcement,” Akin said.
Others said they don’t have confidence in Perry. A political message board where WND asked for input on Perry’s campaign had a variety of responses.
One person said, “I’ve lived in Texas since 1969, and Perry can’t be trusted. He should have been voted out the last election, but his opponent was just as undesirable.”
Another comment asserted that Perry is another “Big Government Conservative.”
“His conservatism is not the small government variety. He has gone from a $49 billion budget to a $90 billion budget. A lot of it went to support overseas contracts such as leasing our roads to foreign entities and turning already paid for roads into toll roads,” the comment stated.
A transplanted Texan expressed opposition to Perry.
“I am not a native, but I’ve lived here almost 30 years, so I think I qualify. I expect you’ll be looking for opinions from both sides, so I’ll label myself now. You can put me in the Vehemently Against column,” the writer said.
Perry also played a role in “The Response,” a recent prayer gathering in Texas through which the faithful could seek God’s guidance for the nation. The event was supported by the large bloc of evangelical Christians, who very well may play a role in the 2012 election.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins was one of the prayer event’s sponsors, and he said in a statement that he supported the prayer meeting because it was in line with the Family Research Council’s mission.
He said he would expect Perry to “contribute positively to the presidential race. But Perkins said he’s also working with other GOP candidates.
“I’ve also spoken to most of the other hopefuls and applaud what they stand for. However, I do not see my role – or the role of FRC Action – as backing a presidential candidate at this point, if ever,” Perkins said.
Perkins adds that support for Perry’s prayer gathering is not the same thing as supporting the campaign. He supports ideas publicly, not a candidate.
“When it comes to presidential politics, FRC has historically endorsed ideas over candidates. In that vein, our focus should be – and is – helping all of the candidates understand and speak to the values that will impact the family and the broader culture,” Perkins added.
Eagle Forum Founder Phyllis Schlafly told WND she has not endorsed Perry’s campaign and issued a statement about who she believes Iowa Republicans should support.
“Rick Perry is a fine man, but I have not endorsed his campaign. I did issue a statement saying that if I was in Iowa, I would vote for Michele Bachmann in the straw poll,” Schlafly stated at the time.
GOP strategists are debating Perry’s strong points, with some believing Romney is more centrist but Perry would get the GOP base to the polls more effectively in November 2012.
There is also concern that Perry is courting “beltway supporters” and could be seen as an insider already. But even with the conflicting views, Fryar believes that in the contest between the governors, Perry is a better choice than Romney.
“It’s one of those situations where you’re going to have to look at the lesser of evils. Obviously Perry’s not going to be everything we’d like to see in a candidate, but then again, neither is Romney,” Fryar stated.
“At this point, I don’t think Romney can go head-to-head with Obama,” Fryar also said.
Columnists have been raising some specific challenges for Perry to explain. Joel Richardson noted Perry has an unwelcome affiliation to a Muslim leader, Karim Al-Husayni.
He described Al-Husayni as the spiritual leader of the Shiite sect of Nizari Ismaili Muslims. Nizaris, a group with roughly 18 million adherents, believe that Al-Husayni is both the physical and spiritual descendant of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.
Author Steve Baldwin says there are at least 10 questions that need to be answered about Perry.
He cited Perry’s involvement in the North American Union idea, his interaction with Chinese corporations, his previous support for Al Gore in 1988, his position on immigration, his relationship with the Bilberbergs, the budget hikes in his own state under his administration, his connection to the plan for “mandatory” vaccines for sixth-grade girls to prevent a sexually transmitted disease (his plan was shot down by the state legislature), his perspective on eminent domain, hate crimes and his endorsement of Rudy Giuliani in 2008.
Ambassador Alan Keyes said that while Perry “led our nation in prayer,” he still struck a politically correct stance.
“He speaks of those who have lost loved ones, but says nothing of those who are killing the innocents whom by God’s will they ought to love; or those who grieve as America incurs God’s wrath by sanctioning the ‘right’ to slaughter of millions of innocent nascent children. He speaks of the strife in homes, but says nothing of those stricken with grief, and exposed to the loss of natural rights, as well as moral and spiritual death, because of America’s promotion of so called ‘gay rights’ and the ongoing abandonment of God’s provision for the home and for decent family life. He later prays for people who risk and lose their lives in our military, but says nothing of the impending spiritual assault that threatens our military personnel as they are forced to accept the open practice of homosexuality in their ranks,” Keyes said.