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.
Perry, however, is able to reach many different constituencies, according to Innocenzi, including territory held by other top candidates, like Bachmann and Romney. "What I think makes Perry so strong is he reaches across all of them. He appeals to the quote 'establishment' traditional Republicans ... because he's a governor. He appeals to the conservatives and Tea Party because he supports their positions." says Innocenzi, who adds that Perry has only one notable gap in his support. "He kind of plays in all the other segments of the Republican Party, with the exception of the moderates or the liberals."
Big Money in Texas
Perry has yet to submit a campaign finance report to the Federal Election Commission, but his fundraising prospects already look strong, as he is from one of the best states for fundraising. Data from campaign finance watchdog the Center for Responsive Politics show that Texas is thus far the No. 4 state in contributions for the 2012 cycle, with nearly $33.5 million in contributions, 65 percent of which has gone to Republicans.
Sabato believes that Perry will be a fundraising force to be reckoned with, judging from his past political success and the free flow of political money in his home state. "Cash gushes like oil in Texas. If you want to be from a place to raise political money, you want to be from Texas," says Sabato.
Of course, Bachmann has also proven her fundraising mettle. In her 2010 run for re-election to the House, the Minnesota Republican's campaign committee raised more than $13.5 million, which is believed to be more than any other House candidate has ever raised for a single election. And thus far, she is holding her own in presidential fundraising, with more than $3.6 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.