Rural Paint Creek boy; devout Christian; the man who has sanctioned a record 232 executions. There are many ways to describe former-Democrat-turned-Republican Rick Perry, the Texan governor who this weekend is expected to announce his bid for the American presidency.
Until recently, the 61-year-old has consistently denied suggestions that the presidential role held any interest for him. However, Perry’s imminent travel itinerary — which takes him through key primary states in the coming days — has sparked widespread assertion that the Texan is set to be a Republican candidate by next week.
In an interview for Time magazine, Mark Halperin asked Perry about the presidential nominations:
MH: Is there an open question as to whether you want to run for President?
RP: We’re having that conversation. I mean, you and I having this conversation has answered that question.
MH: About whether you want to run?
RP: Sure. I mean I wouldn’t be this far into the process… The issue of, “is this what I want to do?” was dealt with about 45 days ago in a conversation with my wife. Prior to that, no. Being the President of the United States was not on my radar screen from the standpoint of something I wanted to do.
The governor is certainly hitting the headlines. Last weekend, the man known as “Ricky Perry” as a boy in provincial America led a 30,000-strong prayer rally in which he painted a picture of a broken America in desperate need of healing:
Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discard at home, we see fear in the marketplace, we see anger in the halls of government and as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us. And for that we cry out for your forgiveness.
The Texan was met with whoops of “Amen” and loud applause at the end of his religious address. To his supporters at least, the US financial crisis helped give added resonance to his pitch. Cynics, on the other hand, might view the prayer as an overt attempt to capture the US evangelical vote by a man who has never shied away from interweaving politics and economics with religion.
Fortunately for Perry, certain aspects of the Texan economy – let’s put aside some of the highest poverty rates in America, amongst other things, for a moment – are in his favour. In contrast to the incredibly volatile national economy for example, Texas is currently undergoing significant growth and job creation. The Republican’s radical austerity measures — which include significant cuts to Texan health and education services — may well pose difficulties for winning votes but such practices will no doubt be easier to legitimise when serious concern over US debt is so prevalent.
However, Perry still has some important hurdles to clear. While the religious vote plays in his favour, those not attracted by overt religion may struggle to disassociate his fervent Christian beliefs from his political ones. Likewise, the Left may well struggle to accept Perry’s conservative views on the economy and society: let it not be forgotten that this is a man who embraced the Tea Party movement very early on.
Economics aside, perhaps it comes down to good old-fashioned history, as Toby Harnden suggests when he writes that, post-Bush, perhaps Ricky Perry is just “too Texan” to win a general election.