GOP hails N.H. de­bate as some pine for Perry

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

MANCH­ESTER, N.H. | A day af­ter the first big de­bate of their pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing cam­paign, Repub­li­cans sounded more en­thu­si­as­tic about their field than be­fore, but some say the big win­ner was one po­ten­tial can­di­date who was not on the stage: Rick Perry.

The three-term Texas gov­er­nor, who has dropped hints that he may re­think his de­ci­sion not to run for pres­i­dent, hails from a state that pro­duced more jobs dur­ing the re­ces­sion than any other. Af­ter the June 13 de­bate, Mr. Perry has be­come the great hope of a con­ser­va­tive, mostly un­der­ground move­ment within the party to stop the clear fron­trun­ner, for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney.

“The de­bate re­vealed that the is­sue of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign will be the econ­omy,” said for­mer Rep. Bob McEwen of Ohio. “And Perry’s record on jobs is stun­ning, bet­ter than any­one on that stage. So is his com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing our borders and se­cur­ing en­ergy in­de­pen­dence.”

The Texas gov­er­nor, in Man­hat­tan on June 14 to give the key­note ad­dress at the Repub­li­can Party´s an­nual Lin­coln Day din­ner, told Fox News ear­lier that his wife and oth­ers have urged him to con­sider run­ning and he is “giv­ing it the ap­pro­pri­ate thought.”

A sam­pling of lead­ers and ac­tivists who viewed the de­bate re­vealed con­sid­er­able con­sen­sus that Mr. Rom­ney, for­mer Min­nesota Gov. Tim Paw­lenty, for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin- grich, Rep. Michele Bach­mann of Min­nesota and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas met or ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions. Mrs. Bach­mann made news by for­mally an­nounc­ing her can­di­dacy, and many party lead­ers said they were happy, and re­lieved, that the can­di­dates trained their fire pri­mar­ily on Pres­i­dent Obama and not on one an­other.

But with the lesser-known can­di­dates fail­ing to press or ruf­fle the front-run­ner, many con­sid­ered the de­bate at least a tac­ti­cal win for Mr. Rom­ney.

New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­ber Steve Duprey, a for­mer state party chair­man, said Mr. Gingrich “demon­strated he shouldn’t be writ­ten off” and added that it was a “suc­cess­ful night” for Mr. Rom­ney, who “kept the fo­cus on the fail­ures of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and took no bul­lets” from his ri­vals on the stage.

Some Repub­li­cans de­cided they could just as eas­ily pass on the de­bate.

For­mer Mary­land GOP Chair­man Jim Pelura called the de­bate “a waste of time” be­cause the “can­di­dates all ba­si­cally have the same core be­liefs, and their an­swers con­firmed that.”

Repub­li­cans gen­er­ally agree that they can’t re­take the White House with­out the en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port of so­cial con­ser­va­tives, a bloc that is un­com­fort­able with Mr. Rom­ney be­cause of his for­mer sup­port for abor­tion and his back­ing for a state health care re­form law on which Mr. Obama said he had based his na­tional plan. Al­though most evan­gel­i­cals pub­licly deny it, Mr. Rom­ney’s Mor­mon re­li­gion doesn’t help with that vot­ing bloc, ei­ther.

Driven in part by a de­sire to stop Mr. Rom­ney, some top lead­ers of the so­cial right have met pri­vately and de­cided that Mr. Perry is their can­di­date for 2012.

The day af­ter the de­bate, 20 Arkansas lawmakers an­nounced an Arkansans for Rick Perry com­mit­tee. They sent Mr. Perry a letter urg­ing him to jump into the nom­i­na­tion con­test.

“Of the cur­rent slate of Repub­li­can can­di­dates,” the lawmakers told the gov­er­nor, “we do not be­lieve there is one who can bet­ter unify our party and take the fight to the Democrats on their old, out­dated ideas.”

But some so­cial con­ser­va­tives said they are frus­trated at the de­lay in pre­sent­ing a united front as the Repub­li­can race heats up.

“I’ve been a lit­tle frus­trated over how slow it is to get a strong state­ment from well-re­spected evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers to ‘nail Rom- ney’ early be­fore he gains too much mo­men­tum,” said Dick Bott Sr., owner of a pow­er­ful chain of ra­dio sta­tions in the Mid­west. “Perry, he fits the bill on all fronts. Ev­ery­thing about him and his record squares with the type of proven pres­i­den­tial leader Amer­ica needs, and is look­ing for.”

Most of those in­ter­viewed agreed with for­mer New York Gov. Ge­orge E. Pataki, who told The Wash­ing­ton Times that all the con­tenders, in­clud­ing re­tired cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive Her­man Cain and for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum of Penn­syl­va­nia, “did well to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to bash each other” and in­stead fo­cus their at­tacks on Mr. Obama.

Some who say they have no fa­vorites are skep­ti­cal about Mr. Perry’s ap­peal.

Phyl­lis Woods, an RNC mem­ber from New Hamp­shire, said that al­though she has al­ways liked Mr. Perry, re­cent state­ments and ap­pear­ances have con­vinced her that “he isn’t ready for prime time and prob­a­bly won’t play well here.”

An­other ma­jor force on the so­cial right, how­ever, thinks Mr. Perry will play well al­most ev­ery­where.

“Eco­nomic con­ser­va­tives, so­cial con­ser­va­tives, we all feel he is our choice,” said Wall­Builders founder and con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist David Bar­ton. “There are 30 states that have draft-Perry cam­paigns go­ing, none of them ini­ti­ated by the can­di­date, which is a first in my life­time.”

Matt Tow­ery, a for­mer GOP mem­ber of the Ge­or­gia House, said “a Perry can­di­dacy would likely take a huge chunk away from can­di­dates such as San­to­rum, Bach­mann and Cain, thus leav­ing the race one of GOP es­tab­lish­ment ver­sus mav­er­ick con­ser­va­tive and suc­cess­ful Texas gov­er­nor.”

Cal­i­for­nia GOP As­sem­bly­man Dan Logue said he formed a “draft Perry” com­mit­tee af­ter lead­ing a bi­par­ti­san del­e­ga­tion of Cal­i­for­nia lawmakers to Texas to find out why the Lone Star State was cre­at­ing jobs while Cal­i­for­nia was los­ing jobs.

Ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Re­serve fig­ures, 47.8 per­cent of all U.S. jobs cre­ated since the end of the re­ces­sion were in Texas.

Widely ac­knowl­edged as a prodi­gious fundraiser for his own cam­paigns and for the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion, which he now chairs, Mr. Perry nev­er­the­less faces a se­ri­ous chal­lenge un­der the rules for pres­i­den­tial cam­paign giv­ing, which set do­na­tion lim­its of $2,550 per per­son. Some say he will need as­sur­ances from his ma­jor donors that they can raise $40 mil­lion or more for him by year’s end.

New Hamp­shire’s Mr. Duprey said he thought Mrs. Bach­mann’s an­nounce­ment of her can­di­dacy while mil­lions of Amer­i­cans watched on TV was a “great move” and that Mr. Gingrich, whose cam­paign staff last week re­signed en masse, “came across as fo­cused with thought­ful an­swers and helped his can­di­dacy.”

Toby Marie Walker, a tea party ac­tivist from Waco, Texas, said, “Color me shocked, I thought Newt did a great job. Mitt Rom­ney did OK, but came across as a fence-rider, and in Texas, there is a say­ing about that: Even­tu­ally, you get a sore crotch.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

PE­TI­TIONED: Texas Gov. Rick Perr y has been pe­ti­tioned by 20 Arkansas lawmakers to run for pres­i­dent in 2012, cit­ing his state’s jobs suc­cess.

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