Will Perry swagger sell outside of Dixie?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I hope you enjoyed your Labor Day. Historically this uniquely American holiday, which heralds the end of summer and beginning of fall, also marks the start of political campaign season. Generally speaking, most candidates make their final decisions to run and officially crank up their operations for the following year’s campaigns on Labor Day. This is the case with next year’s presidential campaign.

At this point there are some also-rans in the race but they will quickly be culled and you will only have the thoroughbreds left for the final lap. Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. The big question is who will carry the GOP banner into the battle next fall.

Mitt Romney is the favorite. The early surprise has been Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachman. She has caught fire and is the darling of the right wing and Tea Party activists. The big money establishment wing has gravitated to Romney. However, a surprise horse has entered the race as of late. Texas Gov. Rick Perry got in just under the Labor Day wire.

Perry began his August announcement rollout weekend in Birmingham. He received a warm welcome from more than 1,500 Alabama Republican loyalists. He was the keynote speaker for the state GOP summer dinner held at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. Perry’s appearance created the largest crowd ever held by the Alabama Republican Party. The event sold out twice and had to be moved to a larger venue to accommodate the crowd.

Perry has the perfect pedigree and profile to carry all of the Southern states in the GOP contests in Dixie. You can bet your boots he will carry the “Heart of Dixie” in our GOP presidential primary next March. In fact, he could be poised to overtake Romney as the favorite to take the nomination.

Perry has the ability to attract both big money establishment contributors as well as right wing Tea Party activists. In his three races for governor of Texas, Perry has shown amazing prowess at garnering big campaign bucks from a cadre of Republican mega donors. He has raised an eye-popping $100 million in his three gubernatorial campaigns, mostly from large contributors. Perry’s donor list reads like a who’s who in business. He has built ties to donors outside Texas through the Republican Governor’s Association. He is currently serving his second stint as chairman of the group.

Perry is the nation’s longest serving governor. He is a pistol-toting, former Air Force pilot. His bold Marlboro Man swagger and deep religious convictions make him the perfect candidate for Southern voters. It does not hurt that he was raised in the small Southern farming community of Paint Creek, Texas.

The other candidates were rattled by Perry’s late entry into the fray. They are all having to revamp their strategies to combat a telegenic Texan with impeccable credentials on social and fiscal issues who hails from a state where jobs have grown. Perry will be tough to beat in the GOP contest. Even before he announced, an early August poll had him in a strong second place. The poll, which was conducted before Perry even entered the contest, had Romney at 24 percent, Perry at 18 percent, Ron Paul at 14 percent and Michelle Bachman at 13 percent. Once folks see him and hear of his conservative record he will be as hard to corral as a big Texas bull at a rodeo.

Perry is the dream candidate to win a GOP nomination. He is the chief executive of one of the nation’s largest states and that state’s economy has grown during a national recession. He is an outspoken supporter of state’s rights. He has a libertarian appeal that attracts Ron Paul backers. He is a staunch social conservative with a certain amount of Tea Party support who could cut into Bachman’s base. He is solidly in the Christian camp. Perry is a born again evangelical and recently held a prayer rally in Houston that attracted 30,000 people. He is indeed the right candidate to attract Southern and GOP voters.

However, the big question is if Perry wins the Republican nomination can he attract the all important mainstream independent voter in pivotal swing states in next year’s general election. His tan seersucker suit and cowboy boots sell well in Alabama and Texas but what about that key swing voter in New Hampshire? We will see.