Perry took a shot at appearing as the elder statesman from Texas at exactly the wrong time

GOP Presidential Candidates Address Economic Growth Summit In Orlando

Former Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas.

While still fighting a criminal indictment in Travis County and – as a direct result – unable to make inroads in fundraising or the polls, former Gov. Rick Perry on Friday became the first in the crowded Republican presidential field to suspend his campaign.

Unlike his first run for the presidency Perry tried something new: Instead of trying to be the larger-than-life Texan who shoots from the lip and lets the chips fall where they may – and oh, how they fell – in this bid, Perry did his best to appear as the elder statesman from Texas offering nuanced views on immigration, energy, job creation, and more.

He’s been fastidious in his attempt to be the opposite of the “oops” candidate.

But that which Perry was selling, at least for right now, is not what GOP primary voters are interested in buying. Gov. Perry’s decades in elected office and his campaign’s choice to tone down his rhetoric and attitude are the opposite of what’s working.

Some polls, in fact, have shown the current GOP electorate in the early nominating states prefers Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina – all candidates who have never previously been officeholders.

In his final speech as a presidential candidate, Perry pointed to his faith.

“When I gave my life to Christ, I said, ‘your ways are greater than my ways. Your will superior to mine.’ Today I submit that His will remains a mystery, but some things have become clear,” Perry said. “That is why today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States.”

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Perry’s final campaign was that he betrayed some of the very advice he doled out to other White House contenders in his Friday speech.

In his address to the ultraconservative Eagle Forum, he said it is unnecessary and morally wrong for Republican candidates to berate the immigrant population in order to stress the need for border security.

“Let me be crystal clear: for those of us in Christ, our citizenship is first and foremost in God’s kingdom, our brothers and sisters are those made in the image of God, and our obligation – after loving God with all our heart, mind and soul – is to love our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of where they come from,” Perry said.

The speech came about a month after Perry compared illegal immigration to “a disease.”

That’s a far cry from 2006, when Perry defeated three other candidates in a wild general election largely by emphasizing border security only to later embrace a guest worker program and reject a border wall.

But, that was nearly 10 years ago and the Texas GOP electorate has changed along with primary voters in other states. We are not even in the same Republican universe as when former Governor George W. Bush would win the White House using immigration rhetoric like “family values don’t end at the Rio Grande.”

Republican primary voters of today are ever more Anglo and angry, giving the advantage to the anti-immigrant ravings of Trump and to a lesser extent, the junior senator from Texas Ted Cruz.

Copyright September 11, 2015, Harvey Kronberg,, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission. 

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