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Some conservatives not thrilled by Rick Perry

at 03:30 PM ET, 08/17/2011


Presidential candidate Rick Perry, with his wife Anita, at left, speaks to New Englanders at the Politics and Eggs breakfast, in Bedford, New Hampshire. (Melina Mara - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Does Rick Perry have a problem with conservatives?

In the very short time since Perry’s presidential announcement, there have been some potentially problematic grumblings among a handful of conservative bloggers about the Texas governor. While Perry is being lavished with attention by the national media, there are some positions that are causing consternation among some vocal conservatives.

Most famously, there’s the governor’s decision to mandate that all Texas schoolgirls get the HPV vaccine Gardasil, which some social conservatives see as an embrace of promiscuity and libertarian-minded conservatives argue amounts to government overreach in matters of personal health. Perry now says he made a mistake, but the Republican defended his position for years.

But the vaccine controversy isn’t Perry’s only break from conservative orthodoxy.

“The Gardasil debacle is just one of many concerns a wide range of grassroots conservative activists have about Perry's record as governor,” said prominent conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, who wrote a post critical of Perry on Wednesday. “He’s soft on illegal immigration despite a few recent nods to border enforcement. He's prone to crony capitalism. And as the vaccine mandate scandal shows, he demonstrated Nanny State tendencies that are anathema to Tea Party core principles.”

Perry has also ruffled feathers with social conservatives in recent days by saying that under 10th Amendment principles, gay marriage in New York didn’t bother him. After all, Perry endorsed former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential race, who is hardly considered a social conservative.

Perry has also drawn criticism for his plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor, a failed cross-state toll road that drew criticism from rural property owners and immigration foes, because the plan involved a partnership with the Mexican government.

On immigration, Perry is far to the left of most Republicans (as is Texas as a whole given its large population of Latinos). Vocal anti-immigration advocate Tom Tancredo wrote an op-ed for Politico last weekend attacking Perry on the issue. The headline: “Perry: Not a true conservative.”

There are also areas where Perry has yet to face much criticism, but the pressure is likely to increase when the GOP primary heats up. Texas’s debt has doubled under Perry, while some business and cigarette taxes spiked.

Some critics don’t have a specific gripe with Perry so much as a general sense that he’s overrated and will collapse under close examination.

“I felt a need to put on the record my instinctive sense that there’s something fundamentally wrong about the Perry campaign,” wrote conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain a couple days before the Iowa straw poll. “Some kind of catastrophe will result, one way or another.”

“His stands on immigration, public health issues, and spending will offend Tea Partiers, and his over-the-top rhetoric and religion-soaked patois will unnerve party moderates and donors,” wrote American Conservative contributor Michael Brendan Dougherty.

Perry’s campaign is brushing off the criticism, saying there’s nothing in his record that a conservative wouldn’t love.

“The governor has a conservative track record on fiscal issues, on social issues and on the border,” said spokesman Mark Miner. On the HPV vaccine, Miner, said, “this is a life issue and he erred on the side of life.”

But on this issue — and others — Perry is only likely to get more scrutiny, not less.

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