Michele Bachmann is slipping in presidential polls, and Rick Perry may be to blame. The Texas governor announced his candidacy on August 13, stealing some of the thunder from Bachmann's win in the Ames Straw Poll that same weekend. Since then, Perry has stolen both the spotlight and support from other GOP candidates, and particularly Bachmann. A Rasmussen poll taken just days later showed Perry with 29 percent of support from likely Republican primary voters, well ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's 18 percent and Bachmann's 13 percent. Democratic polling company Public Policy Polling shows that Michele Bachmann's net favorability rating (favorability rating minus unfavorability rating) among potential Iowa caucusgoers has dropped by 25 points since June, whereas Perry's has increased by 27 points.
Why might Perry's candidacy threaten the Minnesota Tea Party favorite? Here are four things Perry can offer that Bachmann cannot:
Experience at the Helm
Making the leap from governor to president is far easier than going from the House of Representatives to the White House. Only one sitting House memberhas ever been elected president: James Garfield, in 1880. Governors have a much stronger record, particularly in contemporary politics: Four of the six most recent presidents served as governors. Voters recognize the difference between executives and legislators, says Republican consultant Jim Innocenzi. "It's very difficult for members of Congress to run for president," he says. "The brand they have is that of a legislator versus someone who makes the hard, tough decisions. ... I think that that's probably the reason you're seeing Perry suck up some of the oxygen from Bachmann."
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, says that this helps to make Perry look eminently electable, particularly in comparison to Bachmann. "She's been in the House for a small number of years. She's representing a piece of Minnesota—let's get real—versus the longest-serving governor of Texas in history." Sabato adds, "You may like or dislike Perry ... [but] he's got executive experience that she doesn't have. And therefore, to just anybody, almost anybody, he's going to seem better qualified than she is to be a credible candidate for president."
Evidence of Job Creation
As a result of his executive experience, Perry can (and seemingly at every opportunity, does) claim responsibility for his state's relatively robust economic health. Most notably, the governor claims that the Lone Star State has created 40 percent of all new jobs in the United States since the recession ended. Many commentators have picked that claim apart since then, noting that population growth and the oil and gas industry, not to mention an increase in federal government jobs, contributed to the state's overall job growth. However, there is no disputing that, by several measures, Texas's post-recession economy has re-emerged far stronger than the national economy as a whole, and Perry can at the very least tout the fact that this all happened on his watch.
It is much harder for representatives to make similar claims; they have to do things like bring new businesses or government projects to their districts in order to claim job creation of their own. For her part, Bachmann has used her experience with her family's small business as an economic credential. She also has big plans for the U.S. economy, including a promise to bring gasoline prices down to around $2 per gallon if elected. But all of that pales compared with governing a state whose GDP rivals that of Mexico and Australia.
A Broad Spectrum of Support
Sabato characterizes Bachmann's constituency as a loyal group that hews closely to her particular views. "For the purists in the Tea Party and elsewhere in the GOP, she can be Ms. Perfect," he says. But to other voters, Representative Bachmann's stated views, like her desire to shut down the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, might look extreme.