Rick Perry is currently the longest serving Governor in the nation. He is also the only person to have ever been elected Governor of Texas three times. Such distinguishing accomplishments are not achieved by luck. He has to be doing something right. At the same time you can’t spend over a quarter of a decade in politics and half of that time as the Governor of a state, without making some enemies and some mistakes and no enemies. However in Perry’s case, it is quite obvious that he still has more friends than enemies in Texas .
When George W. Bush stepped down as Governor to assume the presidency of the United States, Lt. Governor Rick Perry took his place and in 2002 he ran for Governor in his own right. Perry proceeded to handily beat millionaire South Texas businessman Tony Sanchez by a margin of 58% to 40% and that was even after Sanchez spent $75 million of his own money in the race.
By 2006, Perry was plagued by budget woes, embroiled in battles over school financing reform, and on the receiving end of a controversial and contentious redistricting battle. His approval rating had dropped to 38% during the latter part of the 2005 legislative session and by September of 2006 it had improved but still found Perry in the red with 44% of Texans approving of him compared to 51% disapproving of him.
In that election, Democrat Chris Bell ran an aggressive campaign that relied on uniting Democrats into a coalition that would win a plurality by seeing a divided Republican vote splinter itself among Perry, the G.O.P. nominee and several Independent candidates who were mounting strong campaigns. One of which included the State Comptroller of Public Accounts, Republican Carole Keeton Strayhorn. The strategy did not work. In the end Perry won but with only less than 40% of the total vote. A result that made Rick Perry the first person elected to the Lone Star state’s executive office with less than 40% since 1861.
Then in 2010, Perry faced a significant challenge for the Republican gubernatorial nomination from incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Despite many powerful negatives to campaign against Perry with, Hutchison didn’t even leave much of mark on Perry and lost the primary with 30.03 % of the vote to Perry’s 51.1%. He won the primary handily and went on to defeat his Democrat opponent, former Houston mayor Bill White. But that race did not always look like it would be very easy for Perry. At one point the highly respected Charlie Cook of the Cook Report moved the Texas governor’s race from the “leaning Republican” column and placed it in the “toss up” side of the ledger. But Perry wound up besting White with 54.97% of the vote to White’s 42.28%.
So how did Perry do it?
Well in 2010, Perry successfully shut out Kay Bailey Hutchison with a, “if you think I’m bad, wait till you see her” strategy that painted Hutchison, a three term incumbent in the U.S. Senate, as the ultimate Washington insider. And in the general election, Perry ran as the ultimate conservative in one of the most ultimately conservative states in the nation. In his 2010 victory speech, Perry stated that Texans were tired of big government raising taxes and added “I am genuinely optimistic that we’re one day closer to seeing fiscal conservative approaches applied at the national level as well,” and then he told the audience who earlier that same evening saw nearly 80 new Republicans get elected to Congress that he wanted to “challenge those new faces in Washington to press for change sooner than later”. He added “I want them to go in there and really go to work.” Now, a year later, and Rick Perry is trying to go Washington to make sure that they do just that.
But the question still remains if he is the right person for the job.
While Rick Perry’s natural Texas swagger helps to emphasize his conservative language, there are plenty of potent arguments to challenge the authenticity of his conservatism. They are questions which although they did not keep him from getting elected in Texas, could help create quite a negative and damaging impression of Perry among conservatives in places like Iowa, South Carolina, Utah Montana, Wyoming, and Florida.
Here is just a brief look at how Rick Perry’s opponents shaped the case against Perry in the recent past. We will see how effectively people like Cain, Romney, Bachmann and others may be able to do it in the near future.
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