After Mondays's debate, Gov. Rick Perry was brought down more than a couple of notches, especially among his Tea Party base. The Social Security issue stings with the general electorate, though less so among the hard core Republicans; but his stands on immigration and his program to inoculate an entire population of young girls hit him where it hurts—the base.
These positions are a lot tougher to deflect and they begin to tell Republican primary voters something they did not know about Governor Perry. Suffice it to say that his opponents have seen the effects of these attacks and they won't let up. They smell blood in the water and they don't want Perry to get up a head of steam in this campaign.
Rep. Michele Bachmann has found another opening: Texas and Perry and the wide open political money machine. This is a pay-to-play state as numerous articles have pointed out. (See the Wall Street Journal's "Rick Perry's Crony Capitalism Problem," and also Politico's "For Perry, Being Governor Has Perks.")
Michele Bachmann touched on pay-to-play with Perry's former top aide turned drug company lobbyist, and Perry will have a lot more "esplainnin' to do" in future debates. You can bet that Bachmann and others will raise many more of the ethics issues in the days to come.
But the issue I am intrigued by that is hardly talked about in these debates is the issue of gay rights. The candidates are all knee deep trying to satisfy the social conservatives of their party as they approach the caucuses and primaries. They all know that gay rights is a litmus test for many. No wonder that Perry on August 26 joined Michele Bachmann, former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum, and signed a pledge to support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
For Perry, this came after a defense of states' rights when he declared, "That's New York. That's their business and that's fine with me," after they passed gay marriage. Needless to say, his love of the 10th Amendment was quickly overshadowed by his dislike of gay marriage.
Perry has written with real contempt of his rejection of gays and lesbians. In his 2008 book On My Honor he stated, "Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender."
This is not exactly enlightened prose, nor is it factually accurate. It is intolerant, and it is not something from Perry's distant past, but rather a current view.
Perry, and nearly all of his Republican counterparts, is so out of touch with Americans on gay rights that it will play a role in 2012. If you look at the rapidly changing trend on this issue, the intensity of feeling, and the concern for tolerance, Perry and others are not in the mainstream.
Republicans running for president should look at Gallup poll numbers over the last 15 years in response to the question: "Do you think marriages between same sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?"
Those who believe same sex marriages should be legal have gone from 27 percent to 53 percent, from 1996 to 2011. Those who believe they should not be recognized as valid have gone from 68 percent in 1996 down to 45 percent in 2011. But in the key demographic of younger voters from 18 to 34, a full 70 percent believe in gay marriage.
The train has left the station on equality for the LGBTQ community.
It is one thing to be behind the curve on this issue, it is another thing to be standing in the courthouse door, with views such as Governor Perry's. This is a voting issue and is not one that many will forget.