Posts Tagged ‘ rick perry ’

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.

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What Mitt Romney has to do to win the nomination

Mitt Romney has a problem. A solid majority of the Republican base does not want him to be their nominee  for President. He has been either the most or second-most popular Republican in the field since this campaign began, but that hides his underlying weakness. The conservative  base of the Republican Party does not trust him because only a few years ago he was pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-stem cell research and pro-universal healthcare. *Miraculously,* Romney had a change of heart on these issues as soon as he started running for President, but that doesn’t fool most conservatives (nor should it). These are among the several reasons why there is a solid bloc of Republicans who are searching for someone, anyone to nominate but Mitt.

For the purposes of this discussion, there are two principle blocs of Republican voters. There is the establishment wing of the Party, who comprise the staunchly pro-business, pro-defense Republicans and most of the moderates in the party. The other wing is the conservative wing. This part of the party is dominated by socially conservative evangelicals and the economically conservative Tea Party. Mitt Romney does very well with the former and very poorly with the latter. For an illustration, let’s look at the poll data:

Romney and Jon Huntsman are the two current candidates who appeal to the establishment wing of the party, while all the rest more or less appeal to the conservative wing of the party(with the exception of Ron Paul, who appears to have his own constituency). Note that there are far more voters in the “conservative” wing than in the “establishment” wing.

Romney has maintained a fairly constant level of support between 15 and 25 percent of the Republican electorate. Romney’s support rose from about 17 to 25 percent early in the summer after Mitch Daniels, another contender for the establishment vote, announced he was not running. Romney maintained 25 percent support through the summer. Crucially, the rise of Bachmann this summer did nothing to dampen Romney’s numbers. This appears to indicate that few of Republican establishment deserted Romney to support the rising Michele Bachmann.

Romney did start dropping once Rick Perry entered the race. Perry was initially billed as the one candidate that could unite the establishment and conservative wings of the party. After his poor showings in the debates, Perry has dropped somewhat and Romney has risen. That tells me that Romney’s establishment defectors have retreated from the Perry camp, back to Romney. It also seems that Perry’s debate flubs don’t bother the conservative wing of the Party.

So what do all these roving poll numbers mean for Mitt Romney? First they show that Romney has a base of support such that about 15 percent of Republicans definitely think he should be the next President. Second (and more importantly), three-quarters of the Republican electorate desperately want someone other than Romney to be the Republicans’ nominee. Look at how his support dropped by a third at the mere prospect that there could be a  nominee who was just as respectable as Romney, but twice as conservative!

Seventy-five percent of Republicans want someone other than Romney to be their nominee. If a credible conservative can consolidate that vote after the Iowa caucuses or the South Carolina primary (even assuming Romney wins New Hampshire), then Romney is in big trouble. Once their first-choice candidates drop out, Santorum, Bachmann, Cain and Gingrich supporters will look to support another conservative candidate, rather than Romney.

To win the nomination then, Romney has to either win over conservatives who seem to want anyone but him (not likely), OR he has to prevent a credible conservative challenger from emerging. Right now, Romney’s greatest strength is that he can say this: “I can beat Barack Obama.” If there is anyone else in the field who is both more conservative than Mr. Romney and can also say that, then they will win. Romney’s path to victory is as the last man standing.

The end of Michele Bachmann’s candidacy

I’m calling it right now. We have just seen the end of Michele Bachmann’s Presidential candidacy. Yes, technically she is still running for President and will continue to do so for some time. But, she is no longer one of the major players in the Republican field and has basically zero chance of being the Republican nominee.

How did this happen? The death knell was Florida’s Republican straw poll results. But that just capped off a long drop that started when Rick Perry entered the race in early August and was furthered by Bachmann’s bad debate performances and gaffes on the campaign trail.

Bachmann was once the leading “anti-Romney” candidate in the field. For a period of time, she was the candidate that conservatives and Tea Partiers looked to to carry their banner in the race. Conservatives and the Tea Party, as a whole, have never really trusted Mitt Romney and would obviously prefer that one of their own be the party’s nominee. For awhile, Bachmann was the right’s preferred candidate. Now, they have a new champion, Rick Perry.

As you can see from RealClearPolitics’ poll data chart, Perry’s rise took a significant amount of support from Bachmann and also, seemingly,  Herman Cain. Right now in national polling, Bachmann is sitting just below Ron Paul and just above Newt Gingrich. In other words, she is only as popular as candidates No Hope and Without a Prayer. She is done.

The Florida straw poll results show that the passion for a Bachmann presidency is gone. Straw polls are dominated by the most hardcore conservative activists and voters and can indicate the base enthusiasm for certain candidates. Bachmann finished in dead last in Florida, right behind Jon Hunstman. Let me repeat, Bachmann garnered less votes in this ultra-conservative contest than Jon Huntsman.

Now many of you will say “well, Bachmann wasn’t even participating in this contest, so its no surprise that she didn’t do well.” That is partially true. She would have done better had she put resources in the contest, but why didn’t she? The high-water mark of the Bachmann candidacy was her win in the Iowa straw poll. Certainly, if she had won this straw poll, that would have kept up her momentum. Ah, but there’s the rub. Bachmann didnt think she could win this contest. It wasn’t some accident that kept her from participating,  it was the reality that she would have been embarrassed even more by the loss if she had participated. So, her campaign decided to save face and punt on this contest. That begs the question: if Bachmann can’t even win these conservative straw polls,  what chance does she have in the primaries?

There’s also the fact that many candidates do well in straw polls, even if they are not directly participating in them. Perry (or “Parry”) made a good showing at the Iowa straw poll despite not being on the ballot. Romney finished in third in the Florida straw poll  and, like Bachmann, he wasn’t participating in the contest. If  Bachmann’s support has dried up at these kinds of events to the point where she comes in dead last and is too scared to even participate, then she has no chance of going anywhere in this campaign.

Recent events just underscore that Bachmann was no more than a late summer flash in the pan. Now watch as she just fades out of the conversation…

Rick Perry fading after the last Republican debate

Texas Governor Rick Perry got hammered on the Fox News/Google stage last night. If someone were just tuning into the Republican Presidential contest for the first time last night, it might even have looked like Perry was the moderate on the stage. Mitt Romney came after Perry for supporting in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants while Michele Bachmann continued her line of attack on Perry for supporting giving the HPV vaccine to young girls. These attacks put Perry on the defensive and forced him to defend positions he has taken outside of mainstream Republican orthodoxy. That’s not a good thing for the candidate who is trying to be THE conservative in this race.

The press has been nearly unanimous in labeling Perry the loser in last night’s debate.  Politico/Yahoo wonders if this is the beginning of the end for Perry, saying that Perry’s performance will convince Republicans that the Governor is “not ready for the big leagues.” Chris Cillizza also suggests that Perry is not ready for prime time, putting him in the “losers” column, while Romney sits comfortably on top of the “winners” column.

And it wasn’t just his opponents attacks that took a toll on Perry. The candidate also made some unforced errors. Perry showed that he had never given any thought to national security issues. He was asked about what he would do if Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal fell into Taliban hands. Even though this is kind of a ridiculous debate question, requiring only boilerplate filler about always being prepared and acting decisively, Perry was clearly shaken and caught off-guard. He rambled his way through a “response” that trailed over to our weapons sales to India and Taiwan and was just painful to watch.

Romney and Perry are the two front-runners in this race for the Republican Presidential nomination, so Perry’s bad performance is good for Romney, right? Actually, several commentators have a different take on the  dynamics of this contest. Even though Perry was not acquitted himself very well lately, he is the most credible conservative in the race. Romney gives clear and crisp answers to the questions while Perry often fumbles around and misses opportunities, but conservatives don’t trust Romney.

Romney has an appearance problem. He’s only ever won one election in his life, but he comes across as the quintessential politician. His biggest accomplishment in his one term in political office is the health care plan that became the model for President Obama’s healthcare plan. He has a problem connecting on a personal level with Tea Partiers and conservative voters. The straight-shooting Gov. Perry has always been able to connect with the Republican Party’s base. He speaks their language in a way that Romney can never hope to.

The conservative base of the party wants a nominee they can be excited about. They haven’t really come to see Romney as that person. Perry, though, can fill the mold. As long as the questions about Perry’s candidacy don’t become too serious, the conservatives can carry him through. He has wide latitude for mistakes just because Republicans don’t seem to want to give this to Romney.

Republicans and being “pro-life”

I tend to stay away from the so-called “moral issues” on this blog as much as I can.  But allow me a note on the enthusiasm for death that the GOP is currently displaying. Ask any Republican and they will tell you that theirs is the party of “life.” Recent displays at the past two Republican Presidential debates should assure us that this is definitely not the case.

In the first debate this month, the subject of Texas and the death penalty came up. At the mere mention that Texas executes more people than any country this side of China, the crowd rose up in applause. Applause? At the mere mention of the death penalty? Are we in the ancient Roman Colosseum? Does this crowd value life or doesn’t it? Don’t they know innocent people can be killed by the death penalty? (Here’s one guy I bet conservatives wish hadn’t gotten the death penalty)

Now, in theory the death penalty may be an OK idea, but in practice its a boondoggle. For one, you can get sentenced to death simply because you are black (no joke). For another, the death penalty costs much more than just sentencing a man to life in prison. So we know its not fiscal conservatism that leads to people liking the death penalty.

Maybe conservatives just have faith in their infallible government to always do what is right? I mean, the courts are part of the government. (That was sarcasm) I honestly do not understand this blood lust from a “pro-life” crowd.

Jacob Weisberg explains what happened at the second debate this month, in a question to Rep. Ron Paul:

What should happen, the moderator asked hypothetically, if a healthy 30-year-old man who can afford insurance chooses not to buy it—and then becomes catastrophically ill and needs intensive care for six months? When Dr. Paul ducked, fondly recalling the good old days before Medicare and saying that we should all take responsibility for ourselves, Blitzer pressed the point. “But, Congressman, are you saying the society should just let him die?” At that point,the rabble erupted in cheers and whoops of “Yeah!”

Again, this was a Tea Party debate with an assumedly a very pro-life crowd. “Let him die” is their new health care plan. Everyone better make sure they have their insurance card on them at all times. If you pass out in the middle of the street, the Tea Party ambulance isn’t going to take you to the hospital without it. Is that the kind of society we want to live in? One where  necessary medical care is denied to those who need it because they can’t pay? Morally it makes no sense. Even economically it would be stupid to have a society like that.

The thing that these examples prove above all else is that we need to stop calling people who are anti-abortion “pro-life.” If you asked the “let him die” crowd or the “yay death penalty” crowd, they would tell you that they are “pro-life.” Those people obviously aren’t. They are anti-abortion and pro-death if you mess up after you are born. I guess that’s fine if you feel that way, just don’t use a misnomer to classify yourself as something you’re not.

Obama’s strategy and prospects for re-election

Before continuing with “diversity week” on this blog, I’d like to do something I haven’t done yet and talk directly about President Obama’s prospects for re-election. Currently, his poll numbers are lower than ever, and the Democrats just lost two special elections that may portend bad news for their chances in 2012. The economy is looking like it will grow only slowly for the next year, so unemployment will remain about where it is now.

Since Republicans won the House of Representatives last year, Obama has tried to portray himself as the “responsible adult in the room,” who can mediate Congress’s damaging and unproductive conflicts. The results have been underwhelming. Instead of separating himself from Congress, Obama’s poll numbers have been pulled down along with Congress’s since Republicans almost forced the country to default.

Talking about the deficit, as Republicans wanted to do, meant that talk about jobs and economic revival had to be put on the back-burner. In order to seem reasonable (and because he truly did want a deal to solve the nation’s debt problem), Obama agreed to put Social Security and Medicare on the table for cuts. When Speaker of the House John Boehner refused Obama’s deal on the debt, Obama was just left with egg on his face. He had given miles in the negotiations while Republicans refused to give an inch, making him look like a weak leader and like he was ready to sacrifice Medicare to the GOP. This angered the Democratic base and confused independents, who had previously turned against Republicans in another special election because of their plans to end Medicare as we know it.

Obama’s response has been to sharpen the contrasts between himself and the Republicans. He is going to portray himself as the champion of the middle class and a fighter for jobs. The centerpiece of this effort is the American Jobs Act that he announced last week. The Act is full of traditionally bipartisan policies that independent economists say will create millions of jobs in the next year. These include tax cuts for all working Americans, tax credits for small businesses who hire, and spending on roads, bridges and schools.

According to a recent CNN/ORC poll, it seems that Obama is on very strong ground here. Moving the conversation to the economy is good because people trust him over Republicans to handle the economy 46-37%. They narrowly favor Obama’s entire jobs package 43-35%, but the individual portions of the package have very wide support. For example, his tax cuts, increased funding for roads, schools and bridges, and increased money for states to hire teachers and first responders all receive about two-thirds of Americans’ support.

These proposals are popular and Republicans have supported them in the past, but of course they are not going to support them now  because that would be good for Obama (and incidentally, America). So Obama can paint Republican opposition as hypocritical and as standing in the way of creating jobs.

But wait, Republicans say, Obama wants to pay for this package by “raising taxes”! Ah, yes. Obama wants to lower taxes for all working Americans and pay for it by limiting the tax breaks very rich people can take advantage of. This is also an argument Obama can win. In order to oppose his jobs plan Republicans will argue that the rich deserve tax loopholes more than everyone else deserves a tax break. Obama’s position, that the rich should pay more in tax, is very popular. If this argument comes down to: “do the top 2% deserve a tax break or does everyone deserve a tax break?” then Obama surely wins.

Obama’s strategy is shifting. He has seen his “responsible adult” strategy fail and has also witnessed the power of attacking Republicans on Medicare. It appears he will stop his tendency to make preemptive concessions to Republicans and will propose shrinking the deficit without touching Social Security and Medicare. Republicans’ support for tax cuts for the rich (above all else) can also be used against them.

Imagine Rick “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme” Perry versus Barack “protector of the social safety net” Obama in the next election. Obama certainly is, and he likes what he sees.

Reaction to the Sept 7th Republican Presidential debate

We heard lots of information and opinions get thrown out on stage at the Republican Presidential debate last night. Here are my opinions, corrections and commentary on what the aspiring Presidents said.

Job Creation

All three of the former governors (Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney) claim that their record shows  they would be the best job creator as President. They have also found ways to trash the job records of  their opponents. How can all of these guys have simultaneously been both one of the best and one of the worst job creators as governor?

Its because these “job creation rankings” are just junk. Depending on how you measure, anyone could be the best job creator in the nation! There are so many different ways to measure “jobs created” that doing so is meaningless. Do you measure net jobs or total jobs created? Do you measure over the entirety of a governor’s tenure or only certain portions? Should you compare a governor to his predecessor or take into account the national picture? You can judge the numbers in any way to make yourself look good. Romney actually made a good point in the debate when he noted that economies states are very different and governors really have little control over how well the economy does under their tenure.

Ben Bernanke

Both Newt Gingrich and Romney took shots at the Chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, saying that he should be fired because (in Gingrich’s words) “I think he’s been the most inflationary, dangerous, and power-centered chairman of the Fed in the history of the Fed,”  and in Romney’s words “I think Ben Bernanke has overinflated the amount of currency he’s created.” (video here) So here’s the question: has inflation even been that bad under Bernanke?

I certainly don’t think so. Sure the price of gas is up, but the Fed doesn’t have much to do with that and most other prices seem to be stable. But let’s look at what the experts have to say. According to the consumer price index (CPI) numbers from the OECD, the US has had less inflation over the past four years than the average industrialized country and less inflation than Europe as an average. We can also compare inflation over the six years of Bernanke’s term to the previous six years under his predecessor, Alan Greenspan. Using data from the St. Louis Fed, (Bernanke started in early 2006), we can see that inflation has been roughly the same over six years of Bernanke as it was over the previous six years of Greenspan.

Then after you think back to the inflation of the 1970s, it is clear that these criticisms of Bernanke are completely false and misleading.

Rick Perry

Perry seemed to be the big story of the night, considering he is now the front-runner for the nomination and this is his first time on the debate stage. Perry got plenty of questions and made many juicy comments. Among them, he again called  Social Security a Ponzi scheme. I really don’t know how that’s a good way for a politician to describe one of the most beloved and useful programs in US history, but there it is.

Perry also stumbled when he said that the science wasn’t settled on global warming, going as far as to say that global warming deniers are like Galileo. I would say that people who deny scientific evidence because it conflicts with their economic views are more like the people who denied Galileo’s scientific evidence because it conflicted with their religious views, than they are like Galileo. That seems to have been a terrible analogy.

Perry probably won a lot of conservative backers with his defense of his state’s use of the death penalty. Texas executes more people than any place this side of Iran, so the moderator, Brian Williams, asked Perry if he was ever kept awake at night wondering if he had sent an innocent man to the execution room. Perry responded he has absolute faith in the system. So Perry has absolute faith in a government bureaucracy to be right 100% of the time when it comes to life and death, but distrusts the government at all other times? The only thing the government can do perfectly is kill people? Talk about a contradiction. O, and here’s an innocent man put to death in Texas in 2004.

Finally, Perry was assaulted by Rep. Ron Paul, former Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Michele Bachmann over trying to mandate that young girls in Texas receive the HPV vaccine (there was an opt-out for opposed parents). Laying aside for a second the fact that Perry received a few thousand dollars in campaign contributions from the maker of the vaccine, this was a good idea of Perry’s. The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to get an HPV vaccine and I believe this was a good public health decision by Perry.

Michele Bachmann

And I saved the most laughable for last. Michele Bachmann repeated her assertion that as President she would get gas below $2.00 a gallon. Oil is a freely traded, global commodity and no amount of drilling in the United States is going to significantly lower the price of gasoline, certainly not in the short term. Huntsman called Bachmann out on this at the debate because there is no way a President can seriously make a promise like this.

All in all, it was an entertaining debate. If I had to pick, I’d say that Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman both looked Presidential on the stage and acquitted themselves the best. They would be formidable opponents for Obama.