Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Unpopular Texas Governor banks on collective amnesia in future bid for president

Perry's long-term strategy in presidential campaign

December 19, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

COLUMBIA, S.C. – After watching Gov. Rick Perry gallivant around Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina these past weeks, the conclusion is unavoidable: Our governor is running for president.

Stop laughing; it's true.

Why else would he play to small crowds in small towns, talking to people who have never heard of him and, in some cases, care less about the candidate he represents?

He's not running for president now, of course. For 2008, he'll be happy to be mentioned as a vice presidential contender.

What Mr. Perry wants is consideration for a White House run in 2012 or beyond.

For the record, he says he's only thinking about getting former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani elected. But what else is he going to say at this point?

"I have no idea what I'm going to do in 2010," he said after a campaign stop in Columbia, referring to the year his current term expires. "The good news is I don't have to make a decision."

One Republican who watched him speak in Columbia couldn't help but point out the obvious, as Mr. Perry continued making sudden gestures with his arms and hands.

"He's very Bush-like with that," said Scott Malyerck, South Carolina's deputy state treasurer.

Better than Arnold

Mr. Perry's foray into the national spotlight began as summer concluded. He addressed a convention of California Republicans, receiving better applause from the grass-roots activists than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by telling them to stay true to their conservative values and ignore soothsayers who contend the GOP must become more moderate.

Months later, he made a mildly surprising endorsement of Mr. Giuliani for president. Mr. Perry's support was based on Mr. Giuliani's ideas about fighting the war on global terrorism and his record as a fiscal conservative.

On the social front, Mr. Giuliani differs from Mr. Perry by supporting abortion rights and gay marriage.

After the public endorsement, Mr. Perry began making trips to Iowa, meeting Hawkeye State voters who marveled at his boots and striking hair.

After a couple of trips, his conversations often would veer off the subject of Mr. Giuliani. A few weeks ago he told Iowa voters that President Bush was not – and had never been – a fiscal conservative.

On Tuesday, Mr. Perry was in South Carolina meeting Giuliani supporters.

"I'd rather be in Texas," he told a small band of mostly Giuliani Republicans. "I'm here because I believe in this guy."

Proxy candidate

That Mr. Perry supports Mr. Giuliani and is willing to campaign for him in early primary states is not that unusual.

But it's clear that Mr. Giuliani is not investing his campaign resources in Iowa or South Carolina.

These are states where Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson and John McCain are slugging it out.

Last week, when most other GOP candidates were in Iowa, South Carolina or other early primary states, Mr. Giuliani was in Dallas for a day of multiple fundraisers.

In essence, Mr. Perry is helping the former New York mayor make the rounds in states he doesn't expect to win.

He's preaching to a choir that's being led by another minister.

So what does Mr. Perry get out of it?

Well, if Mr. Giuliani's strategy of winning the nomination by holding on until Feb. 5 and then cashing in on the big delegate states like New York and California works, Mr. Perry could see a payback.

He'll get mentioned as a possible running mate, though most analysts say the Bush years have tired the nation on another Texan on the presidential ticket.

But it's the mention and subsequent discussion that Mr. Perry wants.

He'll take that and run with it, particularly when the 2012 presidential sweepstakes begin. That's when he'll return to Iowa and South Carolina with his boots and that hair and hope that the party faithful remembers how charming, thoughtful and conservative he was when stumping for Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Perry knows it takes years for an outsider to build relations in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Yes, he says he's in those states for his man Rudy.

In reality, he's also looking out for himself.

"I'm very impressed with him," said Craig Wall, a 38-year-old Columbia developer. "I'll keep an eye on him. You never know."

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News:

Perry takes swipe at Bush

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2007

AUSTIN -- What a difference 900 miles and 30 percentage points in the approval ratings make.

When President Bush was governor of Texas and backed by nearly 70 percent of the voters, Rick Perry could not say enough nice things about him on the campaign trail in the Lone Star State. But now that Bush's approval ratings are in the tank, Gov. Perry took something of a potshot at his fellow Texan while talking up the presidential prospects of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani during a recent stop in Iowa.

"Let me tell you something," a casually dressed and relaxed Perry told a small gathering in what appeared to be a living room, "George Bush was never a fiscal conservative. Never was. ... Wasn't when he was in Texas.

"I mean, '95, '97, '99, George Bush was spending money."

Then the governor who got his job when Bush left Austin to assume the presidency in late 2000 turned to press secretary Robert Black, himself a former Bush aide, and asked, "Do you agree?" Black nodded his approval.

The remarks, delivered without notes during a Dec. 6 question-and-answer session with Iowa Republicans who will hold the first caucus of the 2008 campaign on Jan. 3, were posted on the popular Internet site YouTube. Perry contrasts Bush's fiscal policies both in Austin and in Washington, D.C., with Giuliani's during two terms as mayor of the nation's largest city.

Giuliani, Perry said, was a tight-fisted devotee of President Reagan while Bush assented to the free-spending ways of the Democrats who controlled the Texas Legislature during much of his governorship.

Democrats in Austin delighted at pointing out that Perry never had the nerve to thump Bush back in the days when both served in Austin.

"Rick Perry could not have been more attached at the hip with George W. Bush back in 1998," veteran Democratic strategist Kelly Fero said. Back then, Fero was a top aide to Democrat John Sharp, who was running against Perry for lieutenant governor. While the Perry-Sharp race was an election-night nail-biter, Bush cruised to re-election with 69 percent of the vote in 1998.

"Without George Bush's coattails, Rick Perry might never have been in position to become governor when Bush became president," Fero said.

Amber Moon, spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, said: "Sounds like the Rick Perry we are seeing in Iowa is not exactly the same Rick Perry we see in Austin."

The YouTube posting of Perry in Iowa was first reported Friday in the Austin American-Statesman, and Perry stood by his remarks when asked about them on a local radio show that morning.

"He was a great governor," Perry said on the air. "Cutting the budget isn't one of the things he focused on and did."

During his six years as governor, Bush won praise for working well with Democratic legislative leaders. Perry suggested that Bush should have taken a tougher approach.

Again, Fero chided Perry for having a short memory.

"It's my recollection that he was lieutenant governor [who holds the powerful post of president of the Texas Senate] in 1999," he said. "If he was so concerned about spending, he could have cut the budget himself."

Not everything Perry told the Iowans about Bush, whose approval ratings nationwide are stuck in the middle 30 percent range and in the 40s in Texas, was unflattering.

"Look, he was better than Al Gore," Perry said with more than a tinge of sarcasm about Bush's opponent in 2000. But he did not remind them that when Perry was a Democrat in 1988, he was a Texas co-chairman for Gore's short-lived presidential bid.

Perry's remarks

See Gov. Rick Perry's remarks in Iowa at
John Moritz reports from the Star-Telegram's Austin bureau. 512-476-4294

© 2007 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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