“I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do,” Texas Governor Rick Perry told the Des Moines Register about the possibility of him running for president. “This is what America needs.”
If Perry decides to enter the race, he would likely appeal to both social and fiscal conservatives.
In Iowa, the nation's first caucus state, social conservatives are an important voting bloc. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Rep. Ron Paul have all made direct appeals for the social conservative vote in Iowa.
Perry is popular with social conservatives and has counted on their support in his state. On August 6 he will hold a “Prayer and Fasting” rally in his state, which he has invited all the other state governors to attend.
Perry's relations with social conservatives has not always been smooth, however. In 2007, he tried to require all school girls in his state to get the HPV vaccine. Social conservative groups wanted a “opt-in” provision, rather than Perry's “opt-out” provision. Under pressure, Perry changed the policy. In a July 6 interview with the Christian Post, Concerned Women for America's Penny Nance said the incident would not impact a presidential run, but, “it would've been an issue if he had not fixed it.”
Perry's fiscal conservative credentials would likely come from his state's record on job creation. Texas has created more jobs than any other state over the past decade while Perry was governor. With unemployment at nine percent, this statistic would be cited often in a potential match-up against President Obama.
Perry would have some challenges, though, if he decided to run, according to Dr. Shannon Bow, who teaches Texas politics at the University of Texas-Austin.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Bow said that “Texas fatigue” might be a factor. “In the last 22 years, 12 of those years have been spent with a Texan as president. I believe the American public would be hesitant to elect any president from the state,” Bow said.
In a race where conservative credentials will be important to many primary voters, Perry would also need to address his history as a Democrat. He was first elected to the Texas House as a Democrat in 1984, and he served as Al Gore's state chairman when Gore ran for president in 1988. Admittedly, most Texas Democrats in the early 1980s were conservative, and Gore ran as a conservative Democrat in 1988, but Bow wonders how many voters will remember these facts.
“This early political alliance will likely present a stumbling block for Perry given that Gore did grow increasingly more liberal over the last 23 years,” Bow said.
Some political insiders may also wonder about Perry's ability to mobilize voters in a general election. In Texas, governors run in off-year elections, when there is no presidential race. In 2010, according to Bow, only Washington, D.C., had a lower turnout (based upon voting-available-population) than Texas.
“The low turnout for Texas elections will inevitably cause pause for the Republican Party if they are looking for a candidate to turn out the vote,” Bow said.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that several Christian Right leaders are asking Rick Perry to enter the race. “What everyone is looking for is somebody who is right on the issues but also has the highest chance possible to beat Obama," said Gary Bauer, former head of the Family Research Council and presidential candidate in 2000.
The Wall Street Journal identified Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptists' Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, as among those urging Perry to run. Land issued a statement, however, saying this is incorrect. “My position has always been if people feel they are led to run for President, then they ought to run,” said Land, and “I do not endorse candidates, and I have not and will not endorse Gov. Perry or any other candidate for that matter.”
Perry has reportedly been making lots of phone calls to political figures in Iowa and New Hampshire to gauge his potential support for a presidential run. One of his biggest supporters, though, is closer to home. His wife, Anita, is reportedly urging him to run.