Gov. Rick Perry may throw his cowboy hat into the ring of Republican presidential candidates when the legislative special session ends — possibly as soon as Wednesday.
After discussing his potential campaign on Fox News late last month, Perry has made appearances in New York, California and Louisiana in recent days, rallying Republicans and Tea Party members alike.
Various polls indicate that Perry’s popularity is comparable to President Barack Obama’s in the state of Texas. A Texas Lyceum poll last week showed if Perry ran in the Republican primary for president today, only 9 percent of Republicans would vote for him. According to the poll, the leader among Republicans with 16 percent support was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who announced his candidacy last month, or former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has made no official announcement.
After the CNN Republican candidates’ debate last week, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., officially announced her presidential campaign and gained great popularity from conservatives. Political strategists said she would be one of Perry’s top competitors if he were to run.
Perry is currently the longest-running governor in the country, and he has gained national support as a potential Republican presidential candidate from many Republican legislators across the country as well as Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Dewhurst said he has talked to Perry about running for president, and said he thinks Perry will make a great candidate for the Republican party.
“It may come down, in a relatively short time, to a two- or three-person race [in the Republican primary],” Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst also said he is thinking about running for the U.S. Senate or Governor of Texas, but he will announce his decision early in July.
School of Public Affairs lecturer Sherri Greenberg and numerous political scientists noted the difficulties Perry and other GOP candidates must overcome when running against Obama.
“There’s a bit of a dilemma Republican candidates face,” Greenberg said. “To win the [Republican] primary you have to run pretty far right, and Perry has done that, but it can alienate independent and weak Republican voters.”
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and other politicians have scrutinized Perry, especially on higher education issues. During UT’s 128th spring graduation commencement ceremony, Hutchison said a vibrant research community is critical to the success of the University in the midst of suggestions from Perry and his supporters that universities should separate research and teaching funding.
Paul Theobald, philanthropy director of Phi Alpha Delta, a pre-law fraternity, and a U.S. veteran, predicts Perry will run, but he will not have a strong voter base from the University. Theobald said Perry doesn’t have students’ best interests at heart and is too socially conservative for mainstream America.
Government lecturer Alan Sager said it will be easy for Perry to beat Obama if he gets the nomination.
“If he wins the nomination, he will win the presidency,” Sager said, after noting that Perry has never lost an election.
Sager said Perry is in a good position to run for office, especially if things go well during the rest of the legislative special session. Perry must play on what Sager called the “Texas story,” the perception that Texas has weathered the economic downturn better than most of the country.
Sager said if the people find the Texas story strong enough, it will carry Perry into the White House.
Printed on 6/23/2011 as: Governor moves to solidify political support necessary to begin possible campaign.