The media descend on Houston for "The Response" -- the Texas governor's prayer rally and likely precursor to a run for president
AUSTIN, TX -- Most politicos here in Texas agree on two things. First, Gov. Rick Perry is going to run for president and will be a formidable candidate. Second, the "national call to prayer" that Perry dreamed up last year (dubbed "The Response"), which takes place tomorrow in Houston's Reliant Stadium, was not intended to be part of his campaign. Well, it's going to be anyway. National media are right now descending on Houston, drawn by the expectation that Perry will be a major player in the Republican primaries and by the novelty of the big event. It's not every candidate that holds a stadium rally for a day of prayer and fasting.
Perry is, as "The Response" would suggest, a serious religious conservative, who is embraced by the Tea Party movement. He's also the nation's longest-serving governor, and has the great good fortune of overseeing a state whose economy is doing much better than that of any other. When he gets in the race, his message will be about jobs and how to create them. His spokesman told me this morning, "Gov. Perry's four principals are: don't spend all the money; keep taxes low; impose fair regulations; and limit lawsuits. Government should get out of the way and let the private sector create jobs."
But that's not the message that's likely to ring out in Reliant Stadium tomorrow. One reason why some national Republicans wince when they think about Rick Perry is that the image he'll be presenting tomorrow is much different than his economic one. He'll be surrounded with prominent culture warriors such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Rev. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association. The worry among some strategists is that this might frighten off moderates and hurt Perry in a general election.
We may find out. Right now, I'm off to eat my weight in ribs at Iron Works BBQ, then on to Houston. I'll file some blog posts tomorrow during the (gulp) seven-hours of fasting and prayer, then probably a wrap-up in the evening. In the meantime -- after the jump -- a quick Q & A about Perry and "The Response":
What is "The Response"?
"The Response" is a "solemn gathering of prayer and fasting for our nation." It is not a political event. Perry has held prayer events in the past, and is thought to have scheduled this one before he decided (probably) to run for president.
What is "The Response" responding to?
It is responding to the generally lousy state of things in this country -- politically, morally, spiritually. Per the organizers, "According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentence and ask God to intervene. The Response will be a historic gathering of people from across the nation to pray and fast for America." If you can't make it to Houston, it will also be simulcast in 1,100 churches in all 50 states.
Is Perry going to declare his candidacy?
No. But he is going to speak (at around 11:30 a.m. or so, I'm reliably informed). And although there is no formal political element to this event, there will certainly be an informal political element because so many reporters covering the presidential race will be attendance and will write about it in those terms.
Has Perry said anything about "The Response"?
In fact, he has. Here's a video clip of him laying it all out: