Does Gov. Perry Still Have Political Magic in Him?


Gov. Perry on Meet the Press

It’s safe to say Gov. Perry’s rebranding effort isn’t slowing down a bit.  But, whether he’s having success in the endeavor is an open question. His appearance this morning on Meet the Press continued his campaign to show himself to be one of the functional elected Republicans in America, which would be any Republican officeholder outside Washington. Those Republicans in D.C. include Sen. Ted Cruz, who Perry could very well face in a  contest for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

As Cruz has asserted his dominance over the right-wing of the party, the real magic trick for Perry or any other Republican seeking to best him in a nomination fight would be to differentiate themselves  from Cruz without offending those voters loyal to his brand of politics. So, Perry is working to assume a role as an elder statesman, something Cruz can’t do.  

If you think Perry isn’t capable of political magic, remember that in 2010 the longest serving governor in Texas history painted himself as an outsider when he was challenged in a Republican primary by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and beat her. That was long before his “oops” moment, which by the way was not when he lost the presidential primary. Base conservatives had long abandoned Perry by then because of something he said when he was at his most articulate. When Perry said those who would deny an education to young undocumented immigrants are heartless, those folks wrote him off. That moment revealed more about the base of the party than it did about Perry, frankly.


Perry in 2009 at a Tea Party rally in Austin.

Rather than the fiery Perry we saw at one of the very first Tea Party rallies – the camouflage hat-wearing protester (and yeah, the brim was camo, hard to see in that photo) – on the Texas Capitol steps back in 2009, we see a governor who’s seeking nuance rather than controversy. Sure, he can still get a crowd fired up: See his CPAC speech this year, but that’s not how he’s spending the majority of his time in front of cameras.

It’s a change in style if not in substance. He’s still talking philosophically about the idea  that the states are where the bulk of governing should take place rather than in Washington – even if he isn’t using the terms “10th Amendment” and “states’ rights.”

Perry is focused like a laser on economics. In the Meet the Press interview today, he almost sounded like a man harkening back to to George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” when he talked about the unemployed. “I’m really worried about those 90 million people that are out of work,” Perry said. “The idea that there are more women out of the workforce now than at any time in our history? That’s just not right.”

Even on the issue that most inflames the GOP base, immigration and border security, he avoids the boilerplate responses you get from the vast majority of conservative Republicans. In February, Perry predicted illegal immigration would become less of a flashpoint as the economy improves in Mexico, thanks to an expanded oil and gas industry south of the border. From the Washington Post:

The change, Perry predicted, will come as private investors begin taking stakes in Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly. In December, Mexico’s Senate ratified outlines of legislation that would allow private investment in the company, which could eventually lead to complete privatization. Outside analysts believe the new rules will eventually make Mexico one of the world’s largest oil producers.
The new jobs that result from the energy boom, Perry predicted, will attract immigrant labor that would otherwise come to the United States.
“At that point in time, this whole issue of immigration reform, I think loses a lot of steam. And then the immigration debate may become, how are we going to efficiently allow people into this country to fill the agricultural or hospitality or construction jobs that these people had historically been filling,” Perry said.

Watch the segment from NBC below and you’ll see what I mean.

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