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Rick Perry: Republican Savior or GOP Disaster?

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“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.”

But will Republican caucus attendees and primary voters really care? Or will they be smitten by his populist rhetoric, his contrast to Obama and his claim, supported by Politifact Texas, that Texas has created more jobs since he became governor than any other state. 

While there are differences of opinion among strategists about Perry’s appeal in the GOP race, there is unanimous agreement that the Texan would be a risky general election choice for his party.

One conservative, for example, suggested that he would be strong with the party base but would have questionable appeal among independent and moderate voters.

Another said that while he (and many other Republicans) could win in a double-dip recession or with 10 percent unemployment, “Rick Perry could lose every true swing state and spawn a disaster [for his party] down ballot in Great Lakes and coastal suburbs.”

He is simply too conservative, too Texas and too cowboy in a general election, most strategists believe.

Given the weak field, his campaign skills and his relatively broad appeal to Republicans, Rick Perry is a horse to watch for the nomination. But in a general election, the GOP cowboy doesn’t now look at all like the GOP’s savior.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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