Though he hasn't announced his candidacy yet, Washington is already buzzing about Texas Gov. Rick Perry being the next big thing in the packed race for the 2012 GOP presidential nominee. Washington Whispers's Paul Bedard tells us to expect an announcement by the end of the month and Ken Walsh hears that GOP strategists expect him to compete with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the front-running position. With many calling the current Republican field lackluster, all eyes are on Perry to be the GOP's knight in shining armor. He has received some positive attention for job creation which has remained strong in his state through the recession—unemployment in Texas never surpassed 8.3 percent while many places in the country saw it in the double digits. However, Perry supported the Texas version of the DREAM Act, a move that may isolate anti-immigration conservatives. Some political pundits, like TJS's Laura Chapin doubt he has nationwide appeal.
This weekend, 2012 forecasters are paying close attention to Perry, as he sponsors "The Response"—a prayer summit being held Saturday in a Houston arena. Perry even filmed a video calling Americans to join him in prayer and fasting to ask for God's "forgiveness, His wisdom and provision for our state and nation." The event was organized by American Family Association, an evangelical Christian group that has campaigned against homosexuality, pornography, and Muslims. The group's politics have attracted much criticism, from its assertions that Nazis were a group of "homosexual thugs" to its demand that Muslims be denied American citizenship. However, it has also been used by many Republican politicians to reach out to their Christian conservative audience—2012 GOP hopefuls like Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Rep. Newt Gingrich, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have all spoken on the American Family Association's radio show. Nevertheless, Perry is the most prominent Republican publicly endorsing this weekend's prayer rally, aligning himself closest to the Religious Right than the rest of his possible GOP competition. [Check out US News and World Report's new iPad app.]
We want to know what you think. Assuming Perry announces a presidential campaign, do you think the prayer summit will help or hurt the Texas governor's chances of becoming the 2012 GOP nominee? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below.
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