Gov. Rick Perry will speak at Liberty University on Wednesday, and the Christian school's president and chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., son of the school's founder, predicts Perry will find a very receptive audience among its students.
“Obviously the vast majority of our students are social conservatives," said Falwell, who took over leadership of the Lynchburg, Va., institution — with 93,000 students, the largest Christian university in the world — after the 2007 death of his father, Jerry Falwell Sr. "Most of the eight candidates are pretty much in line with that, but Rick Perry is probably one of the stronger candidates on social issues. Anybody would be a vast improvement over Obama.”
Falwell predicted that Perry's 2007 executive order requiring young girls to be vaccinated against HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that is the principal cause of cervical cancer, would not be disqualifying issue for Perry among the school's students. At the CNN/Tea Party Express GOP debate Monday night in Tampa, Fla., Perry was roundly attacked for issuing the directive, which was later overturned by the Texas Legislature. Perry now says his decision was a mistake.
"Nobody’s perfect," Falwell said. "I don’t think there will be 100 percent agreement on campus, but Perry made clear last night that he provided an opt out that allows parents [not to have their daughters receive the vaccine]. He probably regrets having [issued the executive order]. You can’t find any of the candidates who haven’t made a mistake in their past.”
Falwell called Perry’s previous flirtation with secession “gutsy.”
“I have admired him form a distance," said Falwell, who endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008 but has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate in this cycle. "I thought his talk on secession took a lot of guts to even say it.”
Falwell noted that by the end of September, five of the eight major candidates for the 2012 Republican nomination will have appeared at Liberty University. Michele Bachmann, who has a daughter attending Liberty, will speak at the school on Sept. 28.
"How well he’s received here will be a good indicator of how well he’s received nationwide," Falwell said.