Michelle Bachmann, the most conservative and articulate 2012 GOP presidential candidate, dropped out of the race after her poor showing in Iowa last week. Herman Cain’s disappointing withdrawal last month over spurious sexual harassment allegations suggests we won’t be discussing a flat federal income tax for at least another election cycle. John Huntsman was a surprisingly conservative governor of Utah, and could still benefit from the shell game Republican voters have been playing with their candidates for the past six months—if voters ever notice he’s running. Mitt Romney is an unreliable conservative; Newt Gingrich is a combustible bloviator; and Ron Paul is a nutty America-hater.
What about Rick Perry? Last September, he was the GOP’s latest, greatest hope for about three invigorating weeks. The only—only—reason Republican voters abandoned him in droves after his bump in the polls was his clunky and unscripted performance in the first few debates—a flaw he’s long since overcome. Perry’s marble-mouthed tendencies have been limited thus far to one format—the presidential primary debate—and even there he’s improved dramatically, such that commentators have been gushing, “Perry had a really good night!” and “This was the best Perry debate performance so far!”
(I don’t fault Perry for not being able to remember the third agency he would close; there are so many I would shut down, I also would lose track. When Ron Paul helpfully offered “EPA?” I would have said, “That too!”)
Perry detractors who are incessantly angling for Romney argue that the country doesn’t want another cowboy as president, but those objections are more stylistic than ideological. I’m confident that conservatives would warm to a President Perry who repealed ObamaCare and rid us of the Commerce, Education, and Energy Departments, even if his Texas twang recalled George W. Bush’s. As for liberals’ being driven clinically insane by another Lone Star president: Are we seriously counting that as a negative?
As RedState notes in a lengthy, thoughtful endorsement , Governor Perry snatched the Texas governorship at a time when the state was left-leaning; he has won more state elections than all the other candidates combined; and he boasts a fearsome track record as a limited-government conservative.
Perry doesn’t have Romney’s real-world business experience—we could argue whether it’s more appropriate for a president to have private or public sector experience—but he is the longest-serving governor in the nation’s second-largest state, which suggests he’s been doing something right.
Perry opponents quibble about his support for in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants and his introduction and retraction of an opt-out HPV vaccination for young girls—minor issues that don’t loom large in the big picture. I’ll trade you one Romneycare for a Gardasil any day.
Some who viewed Saturday night’s debate were aghast at Perry’s heretical suggestion that we send troops back to Iraq if need be to consolidate and preserve the fragile security gains we made during our eight-year war there. To any conservative who believes Obama removed troops from Iraq prematurely and precipitously to fulfill a campaign promise to the anti-war left, Perry’s suggestion is logical and common-sensical. Would conservatives prefer we send troops back to Iraq in ten years to fight this war again after conditions dramatically worsen because we didn’t finish it the first time?
Perry is the only candidate who’s served in the military other than Paul, the latter of whom has more or less pledged to decimate it. I think we can safely assume that Perry, of all candidates, would not take lightly the decision to send troops in harm’s way.
Perry’s gotten flack for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme—it’s not; it’s much worse —and labeling the Fed’s quantitative easing program “almost treasonous.” As for the latter, he did say “almost,” and in this era of trillion-dollar deficits, I’d wager that our greatest danger is underreacting to the federal government’s overreach, not overreacting.
Perry deserves major points for expressing “inappropriate” enthusiasm for the death penalty for aggravated violent crimes, which are particularly prevalent in his state—and would prevail even more under a liberal, soft-on-crime governor.
Perry has taken brave, “extremist” positions on abolishing the 16th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution, which would rid us of cancers like Olympia Snowe and the IRS, respectively.
Of course Perry didn’t make a dent in New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday, where he didn’t even campaign, but with any luck he’ll make a strong enough showing in the Palmetto State next Saturday to encourage him to stay in the race.
Before Mitt kills it in South Carolina and we succumb to “Romney is the inevitable nominee” fever, please, early primary and caucus states that have yet to vote, give Rick Perry—a flawed but underappreciated candidate—one more careful look.