Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
George W. Bush successfully made the move from Texas Governor to U.S. president. Can the man who took his place in the Lone Star State follow suit?
On August 13th, after months of speculation and coy, grinning answers to reporters, Rick Perry finally announced that he would seek the Republican presidential nomination. Perry is the longest-serving continuous governor in the United States, and the longest-serving governor in Texas history. He first assumed office in 2000, following the election of then-Governor George W. Bush to the presidency.
Perry also has the distinction of being the only Republican in the race to ever have a (D) next to his name. The governor began his political career as a conservative Democrat in the Texas legislature, and even campaigned for Al Gore in the 1988 presidential election. Consider the '80s his "experimenting" decade. The following year, Perry switched parties.
Flash forward 20 years. Perry has held multiple, massive non-denominational (but clearly Christian) prayer events for everything from rain to protection from Washington's incompetence. He questions man-made climate change. He's said he's open to the idea of Texas seceding from the United States. He's said the federal income tax was a huge mistake. He's presided over an eight percent state unemployment rate—lower than the national average—while closing a $27 billion budget gap without raising taxes. And he's got a concealed carry license. Republicans, start your engines.
And try to ignore Stephen Colbert's sarcastic campaigning for the Governor.
On economic policy
Perry's biggest selling points are his ability to close a budget gap without raising taxes, and his state's lower-than-average unemployment rate. "Thanks to our low taxes, reasonable and predictable regulatory climate, fair legal system and skilled work force, we continue to attract companies from around the nation," Perry recently said. Like every other candidate, low taxes and low spending are the orders of the day.
On Social Security
Perry has questioned the wisdom and constitutionality of Social Security and other entitlement programs administered by the federal government. "From my perspective, the states could substantially better operate those programs if that’s what those states decided to do," he has said.
The pray-ins should tip you off that Perry is pro-life: the Governor has passed legislation limiting late-term abortions in the state, requiring girls under the age of 18 to notify their parents about getting an abortion, and requiring doctors to show pregnant women an ultrasound before performing the abortion.
The governor has said that an Arizona-style immigration law couldn't fly in Texas, and is on record as being against constructing a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. Perry also signed a law that extends in-state college tuition to the children of undocumented workers; the law echoes the DREAM Act, a similar illegal immigrants' rights bill that has yet to become law and to which most Republicans object.
"We must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, 'we don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there,'" Perry said.
On same-sex marriage
Though Perry doesn't have a problem with states like New York recognizing same-sex marriage, the Governor says he would support a federal amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawing the practice.
"[Perry]'s got the best first sentence in American politics, which is, 'I created one-third of the jobs in America in the last two years,'" said conservative strategist Mike Murphy.
Perry has a record amount of experience managing an enormous and populous state, all the while maintaining a relatively low unemployment rate coupled with spending reductions and tax cuts—all things Republicans want to see.
Mike Murphy wasn't finished: "His problem is the second sentence, which is, 'They're all at Burger King or the government created them.'"
Perry's economic record looks good, but whether it could withstand national scrutiny is another question. Perry may have closed a budget gap in 2011, but he's been governor since 2000; he didn't inherit the problem from anyone, and his running up of deficits could water down his image as a fiscal conservative. The Associated Press has also reported that Perry's budget relies on a number of accounting tricks: delaying payments to public schools by one day so they'll fall in a different fiscal year, underestimating state population growth, etc.
Also, Texas' unemployment rate, while lower than the national average, is actually the national median: 25 states have higher unemployment, and 25 have lower, putting it smack in the middle, rather than near the top.