Posts Tagged ‘ 2012 election ’

GOP Presidential Candidates Series: Rick Perry

(For past entries in the series, see: Herman Cain and Tim Pawlenty)

Time for another entry in the series, and today we look at Texas Governor Rick Perry, the most recent entrant into the Republican nomination contest. Perry’s campaign image is based on two claims:

1)  He is just as credible a candidate as Mitt Romney, which means he is a strong, smart leader who can beat Barack Obama, and 2) He is more conservative than the flip-flopping Mitt Romney. If Perry can successfully portray himself as fulfilling both of those claims, then he will win the Republican nomination. Initially, it looked like Perry had both qualities down. Now, it appears there are some serious holes in Perry’s narrative.

Perry’s policy and stances on the issues

Perry has dense ties to the Tea Party. They like his staunch fiscal conservatism, no-apologies attitude and his strong religious faith. Perry is very well known on the faith side, having declared three “Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas”  during that state’s historic wildfires. He also hosted a huge, evangelical, semi-political prayer rally right before he declared his Presidential candidacy. Clearly, he sees no problem with using his public office to promote his faith.

Perry also double checks the boxes on many key conservative issues. As the Governor of Texas, he has presided over more executions than a Chinese official at a pro-democracy rally. Conservatives seem to love that. He is also a huge supporter of gun rights. Notably, he jogs with a pistol at his side and has used it to shoot a coyote that looked at his dog funny.

Rick Perry has frequently used belligerent words to describe Social Security, calling it a “Ponzi scheme.” On this issue, his differences with the rest of the GOP field are probably more fluff than substance. Romney has criticized Perry for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme, but they both want to seriously scale back or transform the program, so there’s really no difference in substance between the two.

Perry does not have a detailed economic plan, like most of the candidates in the field. He prefers to say that Texas is his economic plan. Perry is trying to say that because Texas did better than many states over the past few years, that shows Perry could improve the US’s economy. Going along with that, he likes to take credit for the fact that half the jobs created in the US over X period of time were created in Texas. While its not clear that Perry had anything to do with his state’s job creation over the past few years, this is an important point in Perry’s campaign and it needs to be honestly assessed.

Ezra Klein breaks down the why and how Texas has been adding jobs over the past few years. Apparently, “almost half of the state’s job growth came in the education, health care, and government sectors. Notice a pattern? These are all sectors that depend, at least in part, on government support.” Another 13 percent of  Texas’ jobs have come from the oil and gas  industries. So is Rick Perry planning to boost government spending and suddenly uncover oil and natural gas deposits across the US when he becomes President? Hell no. The dirty little secret is that Texas had more jobs than other states (in part) because Texas government spending actually increased  from 2008-2012. But Rick Perry has promised to slash spending if made President. For those keeping track so far, Perry either can’t or won’t replicate a solid three-fifths of the “Texas miracle” when/if he becomes President.

So what about the rest of Texas’ job growth? Most of that can be attributed to Texas fast population growth over the past few years. More people in the state=more need for goods and services=more jobs. Another factor is the fact that the housing bubble was much smaller in Texas than it was in the rest of the country, thanks to plentiful land, high property taxes and surprisingly strict regulations on lending. Again, is Rick Perry going to recommend increasing immigration into the US and adopting strict regulations on banks? No. So its unlikely that he will bring these facets of the “Texas miracle” to the national stage.

“But what about business climate??” you scream. I’m sure that Texas’ low taxes and generally light regulations have contributed to growth in that state on the margins. But they have contributed much less than the other factors mentioned above. Strong demand trumps a good business climate any day of the week and there has been comparatively strong demand in Texas for the past few years  which has drawn in jobs.

In short, there’s really no evidence that low taxes and fewer regulations would bring the United  States’ economy any of the relative economic success that Texas has enjoyed. A lot of factors contributed to the “Texas miracle,” the least of which was low taxes and few regulations. When you also take into account that Texas leads the nation in percent of workers with minimum wage jobs, in percent of people without health insurance and is the sixth-most impoverished state in the nation, the Texas miracle starts to look like a Texas tragedy.

On most social issues, like abortion, guns, gays and religion, Perry is a conservative’s conservative. On other issues he has taken some bold stances that are against the norm in conservative politics. He wisely tried to get young girls inoculated against HPV and he has been quite moderate in his treatment of the state’s Hispanic population. Texas has not pursued an Arizona-style anti-immigrant law, while Perry signed a law giving the children of illegal immigrants access to Texas’ universities at the cost of in-state tuition. However, Perry has signed a bill requiring photo IDs to cast a vote, which will limit the poor and elderly’s access to the ballot box, with no apparent positive benefits.

The politics of Rick Perry’s campaign

As I’ve already written, Perry came into the race with a lot of promise and a full head of steam. He was going to be the candidate who could rally the support of both the Tea Party and the Republican establishment, while using Texas’ economic record as a bludgeon against Barack Obama in the general election. After his abysmal performance in the past few debates, Rick Perry is slipping in the polls  and people have raised serious doubts about his preparation and ability to be President. Some commentators have already thrown Perry in with the other “crazy” candidates of this cycle (Bachmann, Newt Gingrich).

Obviously, Perry has to do whatever he can to shake off this characterization, but the damage might already be done. Polls show Perry dropping and there is talk that Chris Christie might enter the race while Herman Cain is rising. People have moved on from Perry and he is now coming off as somewhat of a fad. It will be interesting to see where the campaign goes from here. There’s not another debate scheduled for awhile, so that gives the candidates time to message and spin. No matter what happens in the interim, Perry has to pull off a stunning performance in the next debate to turn his ship around. He has a legendary campaign manager and has never lost a race, so a comeback is within the realm of possibility.

As far as how he stacks up in a potential match-up with Barack Obama, Perry polls worse than Mitt Romney. It seems that the general public isn’t ready for another swaggering, fact-averse Texas governor in the White House, so soon after the last one ended in disaster.

Though he’s made some reasonable decisions, Perry’s economics are more of the same old Republican boilerplate. He didn’t learn a thing from his time in Texas that could help the rest of the country. I’m a fan of secular politics. While Perry’s faith-based grandstanding doesn’t bother me as much as it does many people, it certainly doesn’t endear him to me at all. The last thing this country needs is more culture wars and wedge issues. Rick Perry seem to be all bluster and no substance.


Missouri 2012 Elections Preview

Missouri is a swing state that has trended more Republican in recent years, but its politics are still very competitive. It has several key races coming up in 2012, and seeing as I am a Missouri resident, my blog will be following them. This is my first preview of Missouri’s 2012 races for Governor, US Senator and for Missouri’s second US Congressional seat.


Jay Nixon (D) is a first-term governor who won in a landslide in 2008. Nixon is a long-time Missouri public servant (he was Missouri’s Attorney General for several terms before becoming governor) and has built a reputation as a moderate Democrat. He has selectively used his veto pen to hem in the ambitions of the vastly Republican state legislature, picking fights only where he can be assured of public support (such as by striking down a law that sought to make it harder for workers to sue for discrimination) and withholding his veto power in cases that could embroil him in a costly, partisan battle (such as when laws limiting abortion rights come to his desk). He has avoided ruffling the feathers of any of the major interests in the state and has noticeably shied away from any intense, partisan battles. His timely and visible response to the Joplin tornado as well as his jobs tours around the state seem to have shown voters that he cares about their issues.

As a result, Nixon is one of the most popular governors in the country, despite presiding over a state that voted for John McCain in 2008 and swung strongly against Democrats in 2010.  His average approval rating is 48% while is average disapproval is 29%, making his net approval +19%, a very strong number (and also his margin of victory in 2008). This, added to the inherent advantages of  incumbency, makes Nixon a strong favorite for re-election. If the election is a referendum on his stewardship of the state, he will likely win.

His likely 2012 opponent is Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R). Unfortunately for Kinder, the Lt. Governor of Missouri is slightly less useful than the Vice President of the United States. Besides chairing a few committees, Kinder really has no responsibilities or roles that could help him get his name out in front of the public in a positive light. Because of this, his list of accomplishments as Lt. Governor is very small (I really can’t think of any off-hand). He will be forced to run a campaign against a sitting, popular governor as a generic Republican. That doesn’t seem to hold much promise, but anything can change in over a year’s time.

As for fundraising, Nixon is kicking Kinder’s behind.

US Senate

Missouri also has a sitting, first-term Democratic Senator in Claire McCaskill. Claire’s numbers have not been so strong  since the debate over  health care reform (which is very unpopular in Missouri), but they have improved recently to the point where her disapproval and approval is about even. This race will be very difficult for the incumbent. While the governor’s race will focus on state politics, this race will be dominated by national politics. In conservative-leaning Missouri, the person with a (D) next to their name will be at more of a disadvantage in a  race dominated by President Obama. The Washington Post’s The Fix has rated McCaskill’s seat as the #3 most likely Senate seat to change hands in 2012. That’s not a good ranking to have.

Claire has been a fairly moderate senator, though she did vote for the Democrats’ big ticket bills (health reform, the stimulus) in the last Congress. Her opponent will use  those votes giddily in the campaign and that alone may be enough to sink her. Her greatest advantage is that she does not have a formidable opponent at the present time.

Sarah Steelman, the erratic and unpredictable former Missouri State Treasurer has had some problems gaining traction and as of last week had less than $200,000 in cash on hand. US Rep. Todd Akin, her primary opponent had $1.2 million and McCaskill had $2.8 million. Though Akin is a multi-term US Representative, he may be too far  to the right even for Missouri.

He is an avid Tea Party supporter who has made such incendiary and jaw-dropping statements as saying that Social Security is just “a tax…I don’t like it”, that liberals hate it when you say the pledge of allegiance, and most recently, that “At the heart of liberalism, really, is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God.” That last one got  him in a lot of trouble with a group of liberal pastors who, wouldn’t you know, don’t hate God and don’t think that the government should replace God. Akin, for his part hasn’t really apologized. Anyway, someone with such clear antagonism toward people with beliefs different than his own will have a harder time taking on Claire.

Missouri’s Second US Congressional Seat

Missouri redistricted this year, and the Republican legislature eliminated the Democratic seat in the St. Louis area occupied by Rep. Russ Carnahan. Missouri now has 2 Democratic leaning seats and 6 Republican-leaning seats. No, in case you were wondering, there are not 3 times as many Republicans in Missouri as Democrats,  in fact the Cook rankings say that Missouri is a mere 3 percentage points more Republican  than Democratic. But that’s beside the point. In 2012 there will be only one semi-competitive House seat in Missouri, the new second district.

The new second leans Republican, as it went only 46 percent for Obama in 2008. Since his district was eliminated, Russ Carnahan is being pushed to run in the Second. Though he does not actually live  in the new district, he would be a big name and could possibly pull that McCain district into the Democrats’ column. Carnahan has raised over a half million in in the first half of the year, showing that he could be competitive if he decides to run. If he does, it will definitely be an uphill slog. Carnahan won by only a few points last year in his Democratic-leaning district, though the electoral environment will probably be more friendly toward Democrats in 2012.

Carnahan’s two likely opponents, businessman Ed Martin and former Ambassador Anne Wagner have both been named to the first stage of the “Young Guns” program by the National Republican Congressional Committee, showing that he will have tough competition for the seat. Martin was Carnahan’s opponent last year and also resides outside of the district. Wagner was a major fundraiser for George W. Bush (she was a political appointee as ambassador) and a former state Republican Party chair so she should have no problem securing the backing of major donors and Republican higher-ups.

Initial race leanings:

Governor: Nixon is the strong favorite

Senate: McCaskill is a very slight favorite

MO-2: I’d give the edge to Wagner to win the GOP nod and the general election.