When it comes to Rick Perry, it's hard to separate the state from the man. Not just because reporters from around the world will connect the two in almost every story — but because Perry won’t let people forget.
“And I know that I’ve talked a lot about Texas here in the last little bit. And I’m a Texan and I’m proud of it," Perry said to a packed room during his campaign kick-off in South Carolina on Saturday. “But we worked hard. We made tough decisions. We balanced our budget. Not by raising taxes, but by setting priorities and cutting government spending. It can and it must be done in Washington, D.C.”
Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News
But Perry follows a long line of candidates who have sought to bring Texas ideals to the nation’s capital.
“I don’t think that there is a standard Texas candidate," said Bruce Buchanan, a government professor at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs. "But should Rick Perry wind up getting the nomination, you certainly will hear about him typifying the Texas candidates again."
Here’s the scorecard: We’ve had three Texas presidents: George W. Bush, his father and Lyndon B. Johnson. A number of others have also run but come up short, like Ross Perot, Phil Gramm and John Connally. U.S. Rep Ron Paul is now making his third attempt.
“If there is an overarching theme, it is the audacity of hope — to steal a page from Barack Obama’s playbook," Buchanan said. "A lot of these candidates have been unlikely, ambitious, aggressive people. But they’re also very different from one another.”
They come from different political parties. They have different governing styles. They even campaign differently. (Could we ever forget Perot's half-hour lectures complete with graphs and pie charts?) But comparisons will be drawn, especially between Perry and the most recent Texan in the White House.
Buchanan said Perry shares two campaign strengths with Bush.
"[Bush] had a combination of a good record as governor," Buchanan said. "He had executive experience in a large state. He had the kind of personal style and track record on issues important to Republicans that made him appealing on that basis.”
But the Bush comparison also brings what some consider the most important question Perry must answer before he takes his campaign national: Is America ready for another Texan in the White House?