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Rick Perry: Game changer

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This weekend, we got some of the strongest signals yet that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) will indeed run for president.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) said he thinks Perry will run, and Perry himself seems more inclined than ever, telling the Des Moines Register that he now sees the race as his calling.

“I’m not ready to tell you that I’m ready to announce that I’m in,” Perry said in a lengthy profile piece. “But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do, this is what America needs.”

Perry has emerged late as a potential presidential candidate, but it’s quite possible that he could affect just about every other candidate if he gets in. Here’s how he fits into the race:

* Uniting the coalition: While Rep. Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain may get some establishment support, and former governors Mitt Romney (Mass.), Tim Pawlenty (Minn.) and Jon Huntsman (Utah) may get some tea party support, no candidate can cross over as easily as Perry.

Just as we’re talking about how the tea party-and-business coalition of the GOP is breaking down, here comes a candidate who can unite them. Perry was talking about the tea party long before most other big-time elected Republicans were, and that gives him cache with the movement.

But he’s also gotten support from the business community and more traditional Republican bases. That makes him more of a double threat than any other candidate.

* Challenging Bachmann: Just when it’s looking like nobody is competing with Bachmann in Iowa, here comes Perry.

He can speak to social conservatives with the best of them, and his speech at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans last month is proof of that. While other non-candidates like Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee urged activists to be pragmatic about their nominee, Perry urged them to be uncompromising on social issues.

Bachmann may still be the favorite in Iowa with Perry in the race, but her path isn’t as clear.

* Competing with everyone: Because Perry’s base is so diverse, he is capable of stealing votes from just about anybody.

While he competes with Bachmann in Iowa, he could also steal the role of Bachmann’s chief competition from Pawlenty. And if he does that, Pawlenty’s path to victory becomes much more difficult.

There is also some thought that Perry getting in the race may draw Romney out of his shell. For now, nobody is forcing Romney to take positions and start defining his candidacy in detail. If Perry gets in, it helps force the issue.

“Romney stays a slight favorite, but he can no longer play it safe and has got to get more aggressive,” said Democratic consultant Ed Peavy.

* Frontrunner?: Sometimes, we may be a little careless with the term “frontrunner.” So far, the likes of Pawlenty and Huntsman haven’t earned that mantle. And all you have to do is look back at Fred Thompson in 2008 to see the blueprint for what some think could be a Perry flame-out. (The main question with Perry, of course, is his desire to be president, which he had previously and repeatedly denied — so much so that people believed him.)

But with Perry, it’s hard not to think about the label at this point. He’s fresh off a win over a popular GOP senator in his 2010 primary and a moneyed Democratic opponent in the general election, and he’s already cracking double digits in a national poll, despite having pretty low name ID.

One thing’s for sure: The race instantly becomes more interesting if Rick Perry runs.

RNC raised $6.7 million in June, $19 million for quarter: The Republican National Committee pulled in $6.7 million in June, giving it a total of $19 million for the second quarter.

The committee has $7.3 million cash on hand.

All of those numbers are far less than the Democratic National Committee, which raised nearly $39 million during the second quarter and had $21.4 million cash on hand.

Of course, the DNC has a big advantage the RNC doesn’t — President Obama’s joint fundraising committee, which raised nearly $25 million of that $39 million total.

Warren passed over for consumer agency, Senate bid next?: Confronted by Republican opposition, President Obama has decided not to nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, potentially freeing her up to focus on challenging Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Rather than pick Warren, Obama selected former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.

Warren has spent the last year getting the new agency up and running, but Republicans refused to confirm her. Toward the latter part of that drama, news began to leak that running for Senate was a viable back-up plan for her.

With Democrats still seeking a top-tier opponent for Brown, we should now find out how serious Warren is about pursuing the race. At least one observer thinks she gets in.

Giuliani tells GOP to ease off on gay marriage: Former New York mayor and potential GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani says Republicans should drop their opposition to gay marriage.

Giuliani, one of the more moderate voices in the party on social issues, told CNN’s Candy Crowley that Republicans would be much more successful if they stuck to economic issues.

“I think the Republican Party would be well-advised to get the heck out of people’s bedrooms and let these things get decided by states,” Giuliani said. “We’d be a much more successful political party if we stuck to our economic conservative roots.”

If Giuliani does run, he would have some company in this regard. Utah governor Jon Huntsman favors civil unions for gay couples.

Fundraising winners and losers: We know you half-expected to see some fundraising analysis in this space today. Good news! Today’s Monday Fix column has all the highlights you need to understand who won and lost in the second quarter of fundraising.

Fixbits:

The 10 House districts Crossroads GPS is targeting with its previously announced ad buy are: Reps. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Bill Owens (D-N.Y.).

Republicans are getting more blame for the debt limit impasse, per a new CBS News poll.

Bachmann is joining Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for a press conference in the Hawkeye State to discuss flooding of the Missouri River.

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) and his family fended off an intruder over the weekend.

Likely North Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory pushes for an override of Gov. Bev Perdue’s (D) veto of a Voter ID bill.

Barbour says he probably won’t endorse in the Republican presidential primary.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) accuses Democrats of deliberately delaying the debt limit debate.

Bachmann hits Obama on the debt limit, calling him disingenuous.

Herman Cain says he’s more qualified to be president than Bachmann.

Utah Democrats elect an openly gay party chairman.

South Carolina legislators try to get past a redistricting impasse, and it looks like that plan favored by GOP leaders may be winning out.

Idaho joins Super Tuesday.

Must-reads:

Illinois is key battleground in congressional election” — AP

Constituents bending ears of lawmakers as debt ceiling debates raises worry of default” — AP

Congress tees up crucial votes on debt limit” — Zachary A. Goldfarb, Washington Post

The making of Brand Huntsman” — Neil King Jr., Wall Street Journal

More on PostPolitics.com

What Eric Cantor wants

Tim Pawlenty’s secret weapon: His wife

2Chambers:No Recess for the Senate until debt deal is reached

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