August 10, 2011


The Rick Perry that Texans know (Dan Balz, August 9, 2011, Washington Post)

Paul Burka, the veteran political writer for Texas Monthly, recently wrote an article called "Dear Yankee." It was a plea for all the Northern reporters from national publications who will be making the pilgrimage to Austin not to deal in old and foolish stereotypes in assessing Perry -- or Texas.

Burka, who has come to understand Perry's strengths and weaknesses as well as anyone in the state, had much to say of value. Among other things, he noted that the handsome Texas governor with the big head of hair should not be dismissed as a "soft or feckless" pretty boy, as if he were a Republican version of the Democratic Breck Boy, John Edwards.

"Perry is a hard man," Burka wrote. "He is the kind of politician who would rather be feared than loved -- or respected. And he has gotten his wish. Perry does not have many friends in the [Texas] Legislature."

Asked what non-Texans may understand least about Perry, McKinnon said: "What they don't know is that he's probably much more tested than people think. He's been through some very, very tough campaigns. He's pretty battle-tested. The national scene is a different deal, but he is a vigorous, aggressive, disciplined campaigner -- and knuckles-out."

He has never lost an election and as a Republican he has never hugged the center -- a potential problem in a general election but not in the primary of the current Republican Party. Instead he has developed near-perfect pitch with the party's conservative base. He has what another Texan calls "an instinctual read" on the Republican Party, something few people say about Romney.

Perry sounded the tea party's bugle even before most people understood what a force that movement would become within the Republican Party. When he talked about secession back in 2009, Democrats saw it as a blunder by a lightweight. But it resonated with conservatives fed up with Washington.

There is wide agreement in Texas political circles that it was his instinct for where the party was moving at the time, along with his attack politics, that made it possible for him to demolish Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in their 2010 gubernatorial primary, a race that only a year earlier appeared to be hers to lose.

"He obliterated her with his anti-Washington message," said Matthew Dowd, who was a top adviser in both of Bush's presidential campaigns. "He's honed that, and that's going to be a big part of who wins the Republican race."

Many people may wonder whether the country, or the Republican Party, is ready for another Texan. Those who know Perry, however, say that he is not George W. Bush. It's well known that there is little love between the Bush and Perry camps, but personal relationships aside, the two have approached governing in the Lone Star State with divergent styles.

"Bush by nature, in Texas, wanted to be a conciliator," said one Texas strategist, who requested anonymity to give a candid assessment of Perry. "I think he wanted to be somewhat bipartisan. I don't think Perry's particularly interested in those things. I don't think he's afraid to be partisan. I don't think he's afraid to be tough and mean when he has to."

Posted by at August 10, 2011 7:19 AM

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