Why Texas Gov. Rick Perry could be the Republican party's best hope to take back the White House in 2012
Last month, I laid out the reasons why I thought Texas Gov. Rick Perry was the clear Republican front-runner. I'll take it one step further: Perry would be a very formidable nominee against President Obama, and he poses a stronger threat than most Democrats realize and many Republican strategists acknowledge.
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The hits are already out. Democrats are looking at Perry's states' rights, anti-Washington manifesto Fed Up! as a gold mine for opposition researchers, eager to pounce on his claim that Social Security is akin to a Ponzi scheme. They think that his skepticism on climate change makes him seem extreme, even as Obama halted implementation of antismog regulations in a last-ditch attempt to help create jobs. Most view Perry's aggressive defense of Second Amendment rights as a general-election loser; never mind that Democrats haven't touched the gun-control issue since Al Gore's failed 2000 presidential campaign, and for good reason. All of the conventional wisdom couldn't be more off base.
Perry has proven throughout his long career that he's a canny political observer, and he picked up on the anti-Washington mood enveloping the country long before the smart set in Washington did. On the campaign trail, he may be toning down the language from his book, but if anything, his broad themes of bureaucratic incompetence and government overreach offer a striking contrast to Obama's agenda and get at many of the anxieties facing Americans today. If Obama could point to a record of job creation, Perry's musings wouldn't have the same resonance. To an electorate registering historic levels of pessimism about the future, Perry looks more like the candidate of change--and, perhaps, hope.