Perry per­for­mance fu­els talk of 2012 draft

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

HOUS­TON | He’s not on the bal­lot for 2012, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry strongly im­pressed a gather­ing of top Repub­li­can of­fi­cials here on May 17, with many high-rank­ing GOP of­fi­cials say­ing the gov­er­nor would be their top choice if he en­tered the pres­i­den­tial race.

“I would love to see a move­ment to draft Rick for the nom­i­na­tion if that’s the only way we can get him to run,” said Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee gen­eral coun­sel Bill Crocker af­ter Mr. Perry de­liv­ered a lun­cheon ad­dress that had sev­eral hun­dred party of­fi­cials at­ten­tive through­out.

“The com­ments I got af­ter his speech made it clear I am not alone,” Mr. Crocker said at the meet­ing of GOP state chair­men and other RNC mem­bers.

In­ter­views with more than two dozen peo­ple af­ter Mr. Perry spoke pro­duced a highly un­usual de­gree of con­sen­sus about the third-term gov­er­nor’s po­ten­tial prospects as a can­di­date.

The party of­fi­cials had been meet­ing here since May 15, all the while be­moan­ing the chances of the cur­rent field of Repub­li­can can­di­dates to raise the pulses of vot­ers and mount a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge to Pres­i­dent Obama.

Mr. Perry, the long­est-serv­ing gov­er­nor in Texas his­tory, has said re­peat­edly that he has the “best job in the world” and will not run for pres­i­dent next year. But some of the high­est rank­ing of­fi­cials in the na­tional GOP said that af­ter his speech on May 17, pres­sure will only grow to or­ga­nize an ef­fort to draft him into the race.

For­mer Cal­i­for­nia GOP Chair­man Shawn Steel, now an elected na­tional com­mit­tee­man, called Mr. Perry “the most dy­namic and tested can­di­date from Amer­ica’s most suc­cess­ful state with a Rea­gan-view vi­sion. Yet he is hold­ing back from run­ning for pres­i­dent. Why?”

Mr. Perry again put aside his pre­pared speech here, took the mi­cro­phone and, strid­ing back and fourth at the front of the Westin Park Cen­tral Ho­tel ball­room, drew laughs, ap­plause and cheers with an off-the-cuff ad­dress as he told the party chair­men that it is their job to raise the money and get out the vote on Elec­tion Day to beat Mr. Obama.

He also sounded a fa­vorite con­ser­va­tive theme, speak­ing ex­ten­sively on the 10th Amend­ment and the lim­i­ta­tions it places on the pow­ers of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment over the states.

As the elected chair­man of the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion, he pledged to have the RGA work closely with the RNC dur­ing the 2012 cam­paign.

“As of to­day, I love Gov. Perry for the nom­i­na­tion,” said Alaska RNC mem­ber Deb­bie Joslin, “In my state, the coy­ote story alone would win him the nom­i­na­tion.”

Mr. Perry re­counted in his ad­dress about jog­ging with his Labrador retriever and meet­ing a coy­ote on his path, where­upon the gov­er­nor, a stolid Sec­ond Amend­ment sup­porter, pulled out his con­cealed weapon and shot the coy­ote.

“He’s the one,” said a South­ern state party chair­man who asked later that his name be with­held be­cause he is re­quired to be neu­tral in the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion con­test. “We have to find a way to draft him.”

The groundswell of sup­port was un­usual, given that state chair­men and other na­tional com­mit­tee mem­bers are sup­posed to keep their pref­er­ences pri­vate un­til a pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee is cho­sen.

Af­ter an im­pres­sive come­back in the 2010 midterm elec­tions, Repub­li­cans are un­sure of their chances next year, de­spite the rel­a­tive un­pop­u­lar­ity of Mr. Obama. The GOP’s top po­ten­tial con­tenders have po­lit­i­cal bag­gage and li­a­bil­i­ties that come up over and over in dis­cus­sions here.

“I don’t think there are any of us [women] in this ball­room who would vote for Gingrich,” said an RNC mem­ber from a North­ern state, re­fer­ring to for­mer House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s his­tory of ex­tra-mar­i­tal af­fairs and his one-time en­dorse­ment of com­pul­sory health in­surance.

There was only mod­est hope here re­gard­ing for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney, the early leader in GOP voter polls.

Though many ad­mire his busi­ness and man­age­rial acu­men, they fear Mr. Rom­ney, too, will have a hard time with vot­ers given the uni­ver­sal health care plan he signed in Mas­sachusetts, one many Repub­li­cans say mir­rors Mr. Obama’s health law.

In­di­ana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ un­usual his­tory with his wife, who left him with their chil­dren while she lived with an­other man be­fore re­sum­ing their mar­riage, is an­other ques­tion mark.

Mr. Perry so far has no sim­i­lar per­sonal or pol­icy bag­gage, though he did at one time face crit­i­cism from some so­cial con­ser­va­tives over a manda­tory school in­oc­u­la­tion pro­gram.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Texas Gov. Rick Perry wowed a meet­ing of Repub­li­can lead­ers May 17 with an off-the-cuff speech in Hous­ton. He told the as­sem­bled that it is their job to raise the money and get out the vote on Elec­tion Day to beat Pres­i­dent Obama in 2012.

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