GOP primary voters across America are still looking for their presidential candidate — but if Gov. Rick Perry jumps into the race, he would immediately be a leading contender for the party's nomination. He would appeal to all segments of the Republican electorate and would come armed with a record of economic success and a commitment to liberty that no other contender can match.
What Perry has to offer is still missing from the current field. He speaks not only to fiscal conservatives but also to Republicans more concerned with social and defense issues. For example, he successfully advocated legislation this year requiring sonograms prior to abortions. While not a priority to every voter, it is a core issue in a Republican primary.
On the stump he is a master campaigner who has developed an engaging stage presence. Unscripted, he is affable and witty while maintaining strict message discipline.
Given the current economic climate, Perry has a unique and compelling story to tell that America is ready to hear. As governor of Texas, he has presided over the most dynamic and successful economy in the nation.
Texas is dominating in job-creation and economic dynamism, even in a national recession. In the last 10 years, Texas has created 730,000 new private-sector jobs. The next best state mustered only 90,000 over the same period. California, the liberal antithesis to Texas, has lost 623,000 private-sector jobs — the most in the country.
Texas’ success has earned accolades from observers nationwide, and not just from conservatives. For seven straight years, CEOs surveyed by Chief Executive magazine have ranked Texas No. 1 in job growth and business development. Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal have pegged Texas as the best place to find a job. No other state is home to more Fortune 1000 companies. Even Californians like the liberal former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, now serving as his state’s lieutenant governor, traveled to Texas trying to figure out why we're doing so well.
How did Texas do it? Perry’s message is simple: low taxes, restrained spending, reasonable regulations and a fair legal system. This is a story he can deliver to the nation. It's a recipe for success that stands in stark contrast to the expensive, top-down policies of the Obama administration.
While any Republican candidate can talk about smaller government, Perry’s story is truly unique in that Texas, under his leadership, has repeatedly — and recently — put these principles into action despite the tough choices involved. Texas has balanced the books each biennium, as required by its constitution. When necessary, Texas has slashed spending to reconcile the numbers. That line bears repeating. Texas has actually cut, in real terms, the dollars spent by government to balance the budget rather than stifling growth by raising taxes. That's not what we're accustomed to seeing in Washington. Perry has successfully led a legislative body in implementing these bedrock principles, even in the toughest of times, and real people are reaping the benefits.
Tea Party voters continue to exert significant influence and will be necessary for victory. Perry's success in balancing budgets and cutting spending has already endeared him to the Tea Party, but he is perhaps even more attractive to them for his consistent defense of liberty and constitutional principles.
On issue after issue, Perry has demonstrated the courage of his convictions in resisting federal overreach. He has refused federal funding for unemployment and education because he recognized that the carrot was not worth the stick that followed. Texas, he insisted, would set its own standards and protect its fiscal health by refusing to swallow another expansion of a federal program for which funding would never be provided. He has pointed out that the federal government has proven a failure at running the entitlement programs, which are busting federal and state budgets.
Perry has gone further than others in honestly acknowledging the unsustainability of the entitlement status quo and has begun a conversation about alternatives. In his book Fed Up!, he cites the success of the three Texas counties that were bold enough to opt out of Social Security in favor of a private option. Those counties are now running their own retirement programs, and returns to county workers are better than they would get under Social Security.
Perry offers the voters a compelling alternative to current national policies. President Barack Obama had a sizable legislative majority during his first two years in office, and the Democrats unleashed a massive experiment in liberal government. It has failed to work. Even traditionally “progressive” states like Wisconsin have begun to emulate the type of pro-growth policies favored by Texas — a right-to-work state, at least in the realm of government pensions and labor regulation.
Critics will be surprised at how receptive voters of all stripes can be to a story about more freedom and demonstrated economic growth. Perry doesn’t just understand that story — he wrote the book. And the nation is primed to listen.
Allen Blakemore is a Houston-based Republican strategist and the founder of Blakemore & Associates, a full-service political consulting firm. He served U.S. Sens. John Tower and Phil Gramm as regional director for West Texas operations.
Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.