The exception involves his 2007 executive order requiring all Texas girls entering sixth grade to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, which can cause cancer. The move was decried by many civil libertarians and social conservatives alike.
Given that record, some observers stress his positioning given the current field.
“Perry potentially could combine support from the tea party crowd with support from those who prefer a governor/CEO candidate,” says Republican consultant Curt Anderson of OnMessage Inc. “He’s the only candidate who could appeal to both camps.”
He would seem to be the greatest threat to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a favorite of the tea party, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has tried to position himself to frontrunner Mitt Romney’s right but so far has had trouble getting traction.
Moreover, a Perry candidacy would suck much of the oxygen out of the GOP race, destroying the already slim prospects of second- and third-tier candidates.
Others counter that Perry’s niche in the race isn’t ideological but is his ability to talk about creating jobs in Texas.
“I expect his pitch will be his economic skills,” said a Republican insider who thinks only Perry and Romney can talk effectively about job creation. “The economy is the top concern even among Republican voters, and he can talk about job growth, a friendly business environment in Texas and low taxes.”
But for all his assets, Perry’s liabilities are considerable, seriously limiting his appeal in a general election. Republican insiders are divided about how much they would damage him in a quest for his party’s nomination.
One Republican strategist doubted his Texas roots and “cowboy” persona would be problems in most caucuses and primaries, stressing that GOP voters want someone who will be aggressive against President Barack Obama and that “everything about Perry screams that he is not President Obama.”
But most GOP insiders disagree, citing his state and style as negatives for the nomination and for November.
“It’s too soon for another Texan and another cowboy. And Perry is twice the cowboy that George W. Bush ever was,” a GOP strategist said.
“Bush and Perry governed very differently,” another Texan agreed. “Perry is much more conservative and much more strident than Bush ever was.”
Most observers doubt Perry’s appeal in New Hampshire, for example, though they acknowledge that he could be a considerable force in Southern contests and that his “unbelievable” skill at retail politics could make him a real contender in Iowa.
Some observers believe that Perry’s performance in Austin will develop into an issue. Perry is great at claiming credit, asserted one Republican observer, but has been “AWOL as governor; he shows up every three years when it’s time to campaign.”
“It’s not that he is personally corrupt,” said a critic who believes that “ethics” will become a problem for the governor. “It’s that he uses big pieces of Texas government as his playpen. There is evidence of pay-to-play, for example. Hutchison had plenty of opposition research on him, but Perry ran such a superior campaign that her material didn’t get through. Once that gets out, he’ll have a hard time surviving it. And you can bet that the information will make its way to the media.”
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