Matt Mackowiak

Over the past three weeks, one Republican has gained more national attention than any other: Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX).

He has been everywhere - calling up the Texas National Guard, appearing on network interviews, headlining Sunday shows, touring the southern border with Fox News' Sean Hannity, appearing on The Blaze with Glenn Beck. Perry has penned national op-eds on border security in The Wall Street Journal and The USA Today.

Gov. Perry greeted President Obama on the tarmac, met with him in Dallas, and spent the next day on the southern border--a marked contrast with President Obama who spent the day at fundraisers and excoriating Republicans at a partisan speech in downtown Austin.

How did Gov. Perry fully seize this opportunity?

It began on July 3 when House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) held a field hearing on the border in McAllen, with Gov. Perry providing witness testimony which dominated the hearing.

When it comes to border security, Gov. Perry knows what he is talking about, after serving as Governor of Texas longer than FDR was president.

In fact, several months ago, the state of Texas began a $1.3 million per week border security surge through the rest of 2014. According to Gov. Perry, the state has spent over $500 million since 2005 on increased border protection and efforts to fight gangs and drug cartels.

Perry has surged by making three smart demands.

First, he cleverly pressured President Obama into a meeting with him while he was in Texas, by refusing to accept a perfunctory and patronizing White House offer of a 30-second handshake at the airport. Perry refused, asking instead for a "thoughtful policy discussion." The White House caved and reluctantly agreed to the meeting.

Second, he asked President Obama to visit the border while he was in Texas. The White House stubbornly refused and that question dominated the national media discussion that entire week. Even Democrats like Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) went public, criticizing President Obama for not visiting the border. The result was the White House being on defense all week.

To put as fine a point on it as possible, Gov. Perry spent the day after his meeting with Obama on the border, receiving a briefing from border patrol officials and touring the border by boat and helicopter, with Fox News and radio host Sean Hannity in tow. The effect was a split screen comparison between Perry, on the border, seeing it firsthand, acting as an executive, and Obama, engaging in a partisan attack in a speech on the economy and conducting photo ops at a coffee shop and a barbecue restaurant in Austin.

Third, Gov. Perry requested 1,000 National Guard troops to be temporarily deployed to the southern border to send a strong message to Central American countries and help the border patrol with the influx of illegal immigrants pouring into the country. President Obama has not explicitly agreed to this request. He appears to want to trade this for his supplemental appropriations request, which Congress is currently considering.

Gov. Perry got tired of waiting and on Monday he order up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the southern border, to serve as a force multiplier and help ease pressure on the border patrol, who are scrambling to deal with the unaccompanied children.

Good policy makes good politics, and Gov. Perry is not letting this opportunity go to waste. He is using this national story to collect data and engage the grassroots - an online petition on border security that he created now has over 100,000 signatures in the first week. The political benefit to Gov. Perry will likely last.

He has successfully re-positioned himself as the leading GOP voice on border security - valuable political real estate in the Republican Party. Border security issues will remain on the front burner through the 2014 election and likely through the 2016 election. Gov. Perry has aligned his national leadership on an issue for which he has expertise and knowledge, with his own executive record that he can reference. While Senators may talk about votes on immigration and border security, Gov. Perry can detail what he has actually done.

He is on the front lines in this crisis, at a time when few Republicans in Washington have stepped up to propose their own solution.

Perhaps most importantly, Gov. Perry re-positioned himself on an issue where he had been crosswise with the Republican base in the 2012 primary. Now, instead of focusing on thorny issues like in-state tuition, Gov. Perry can redirect the focus to border security.

Gov. Perry continues to prepare for a potential presidential bid, with more international travel planned, public policy issue briefings and political travel. In fact, Gov. Perry made his fourth trip ton Iowa this past weekend. He was received in Iowa far bigger star in Republican politics this week than he was three weeks ago, with a burst of new momentum, a national platform and a second look from the national media.


Matt Mackowiak

Matt Mackowiak is a Washington, DC and Austin, TX based political and communications consultant and the founder and President of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC, providing political consulting, media relations and crisis communications assistance to campaigns, companies, groups and individuals. Since he arrived in Washington, DC, he has served in senior roles for two U.S. Senators, a Governor, in the executive branch, in winning political campaigns, and in the private sector. Over his career Matt has developed deep relationships with national, state and local media and political figures.

Most recently Matt worked with PSG client Gov. Sean Parnell (R-AK) as a senior communications adviser, providing counsel on strategy, speechwriting and media relations during the 2011 legislative session in Juneau.

In 2010 Matt served as Campaign Manager for Bill Flores, the Republican nominee in Texas’ 17th Congressional District. After winning a 5-way primary, Flores defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) by 25% in November, the largest margin of victory for a GOP challenger in 2010.

In addition to offering counsel to individuals and corporations, Matt provides political analysis for the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, BBC News, and radio stations throughout the country. Matt’s on-therecord political analysis has appeared in Politico, the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, The Hill, Congressional Quarterly, the Washington Examiner, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and on ABCNews.com. He is a syndicated columnist and has had opinion columns published in the New York Post, New York Daily News, FoxNews.com, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico, Roll Call, Austin American-Statesman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Des Moines Register, National Review online, Congressional Quarterly and on the popular blog sites The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post. Matt has lectured and given speeches at the University of Illinois, the University of Texas, Texas Christian University, Georgetown University, Catholic University, the University of Denver, American University and the University of North Texas.

From 2005-2009 Matt served as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (RTX), the fourth ranking member of the Republican Leadership, and three-term former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT). Earlier in his career he was a political appointee at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson and Assistant Secretary Stewart Verdery, managed the second largest county in Iowa on the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, counseled corporate clients at international PR firm Burson-Marsteller, and performed White House Presidential and Vice Presidential advance nationwide.

Matt is a Director of the Center for Public Policy and Political Studies at Austin Community College, and is a sustaining member of MaverickPAC. He serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for the non-profit Luke’s Wings and enjoys helping Becky’s Fund and USA CARES.

A native of Austin, Texas, Matt graduated with a B.S. in Communications Studies (Political Communication track) from the University of Texas in 2003. Aside from his professional work, he owns and manages the popular blog site www.potomacflacks.com, which the Washingtonian has called “one of the best political blogs.” In his free time, Matt enjoys sports, live music, reading biographies, and is an avid supporter of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the University of Texas.