Third-term Texas Gov. Rick Perry fueled speculation he'll make a run for president in 2012 over the weekend with his fiery speech at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. “Let’s stop this American downward spiral,” he said, sounding more like a candidate than just a GOP cheerleader. “I stand before you today as a disciplined conservative Texan … united with you in the desire to restore our nation and revive the American dream.”
After months of saying he wouldn’t run—during which time presumed top-tier GOP potentials Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, and Mike Huckabee bowed out—Perry made a swift about-face last month. “I’m going to think about it,” he told reporters in May. “But I think about a lot of things.” [Check out political cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.]
Speculation was already high despite his earlier denials, and now that he’s opened the door, many media outlets treat a Perry primary campaign as a foregone conclusion. One Perry adviser has said the governor is 50/50 on whether or not he'll run.
But with several other ultra-conservatives in the race already, should Perry throw his name in the hat?
The governor, who has long spoken out loudly against big government, enjoys high name recognition around the nation, a ready-made network of powerful fundraising friends, and an already-established anti-Obama rhetoric. Top Newt Gingrich staffers with Perry ties raised eyebrows when they left the Gingrich campaign, potentially paving the way to form the backbone of a "Perry for 2012" staff. [See a slide show of GOP 2012 contenders.]
But doubt remains about whether the nation is ready for another Texas governor to stomp his cowboy boots into the Oval Office, and despite Perry’s touting of his state’s success in clean air and attracting businesses and new jobs, critics don’t think that success had much to do with the current governor. “Texas was a conservative, small government, pro-business state long before he was in charge, and Texas will remain so long after he's gone,” writes Texas Democratic political strategist Harold Cook in the Texas Tribune. “Bush already took Americans down a near-identical ‘Texas success story’ yellow brick road. Would voters like Perry’s America any better, after Bush left on such unpopular terms?”
Perry's 2009 hints that Texas would secede "if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people" would likely count against him, and, as the New Republic’s Ed Kilgore points out, his attempts to opt Texas out of Medicaid and Social Security may also come back to bite him. “While Perry has become a Tea Party favorite,” Kilgore writes, “he has done so in part by making inflammatory statements that may trouble even a healthy number of Republican primary voters.” [Read Schlesinger: Texas Can't Secede.]
But Perry’s fan base is strong, and supporters say he would easily be a leading contender if he decides to take the leap.
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