Texas Governor Rick Perry is getting positive reviews as a presidential candidate even though he hasn't entered the race yet. Many veteran Republican strategists, including some associated with other GOP candidates, expect Perry to announce his candidacy this fall, and he is likely to immediately vault to the head of the pack and compete with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for front-runner status.
Here's the early line on Perry as provided by several GOP and Democratic strategists: He has a massive fund-raising potential. He is popular among Tea Party conservatives who will be crucial to winning delegates in many states. He has a natural base in the South, which is essential to the success of any Republican nominee. Just as important, Perry can sell himself as the popular governor of a big, diverse state who has a solid record of creating jobs at a time when unemployment is the major concern nationwide. Romney's strategists seem most worried about Perry as their biggest obstacle to winning the GOP nomination.
On the down side, Perry is untested as a national candidate. His swagger will remind voters of President George W. Bush, another former Texas governor who remains widely unpopular. Finally, Perry's views on states' rights and other issues might be considered too far to the right for most independents and for other voters outside the South. Perry's potential problems as a conservative advocate were highlighted this week when he was faulted for sponsoring a day of prayer and fasting in Houston, scheduled for tomorrow, so citizens can ask God to help their troubled nation. Some have criticized the event as too Christian-oriented and a violation of the separation of church and state.