"To see Rick Perry's real weaknesses as a candidate, talk to Texas conservatives...the 49% who didn't vote for him in the 2010 gubernatorial primary."
Texas conservatives knew of Perry's flaws
By Jonathan Gurwitz
San Antonio Express-News
For a good number of Republicans outside of Texas, the idea of Rick Perry as their presidential standard-bearer was alluring.
Here was the kind of rock-ribbed, fiscal conservative who could tame Washington and send Barack Obama and his debt-busting, job-destroying, anti-business policies packing.
Before he had ever spoken a word on the national stage, Perry entered the GOP presidential race at the top. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of Republican primary voters conducted in August showed the Texas governor leading the GOP field with 38 percent support, 15 points ahead of his closest opponent, Mitt Romney.
In the intervening two months, Perry has spoken plenty, and his popularity among Republican voters has plummeted. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Perry's support has fallen to 16 percent. He now trails both Romney and businessman Herman Cain.
The idea of Rick Perry, it seems, was a lot more enticing than the reality of Rick Perry. Republicans who are now leaping off the Perry bandwagon as quickly as they jumped on in August could have avoided electoral whiplash if they had simply listened to people in Texas.
Not to Democrats, many of whom -- after two decades -- still haven't gotten over the fact that their century-long stranglehold on Texas politics is over. Rick Perry could support in-state tuition rates at Texas universities for the children of illegal immigrants and they would still call him an anti-Hispanic extremist. He did, and they do.
To get a sense of Rick Perry's real weaknesses as a candidate, talk to Texas conservatives. Talk to the ones who didn't vote for him in the 2010 gubernatorial primary.
In that election, Texas Republicans gave Perry a bare majority -- 51 percent. Yet the Texas economic engine was humming then.
So for what can Perry take credit?
- For championing the now defunct Trans Texas Corridor, a 4,000-mile transportation network that would have required state seizure of as much as 600,000 acres of private property?
- For the mock signing in 2009 of a joint resolution on eminent domain reform that did not require the governor's signature, necessitated by Perry's veto of similar property rights protections two years earlier?
- For an executive order, subsequently rescinded by the Legislature, that would have required all sixth-grade girls in Texas to receive the Gardasil vaccine, whose maker was represented in Texas by a lobbyist who happened to be Perry's former chief of staff?
- For running the state's Emerging Technology Fund in a way that the state auditor said required greater transparency and accountability and which awarded millions to companies owned or run by large Perry donors?
Rick Perry isn't the bumbling bigot his liberal detractors make him out to be. He shares credit with other Republican leaders for creating a business-friendly, low-tax, pro-growth environment.
But after 11 years, Texas Republicans know their governor pretty well. The half of them who didn't vote for Perry in the 2010 primary could have told their GOP brethren in other states about his flaws, in addition to his allure.
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