Thus far, the many GOP presidential hopefuls have been hesitant to comment on the pending entry of popular Texas governor Rick Perry into the race. While his campaign is yet unofficial, fears of backlash for premature negative campaigning and a nervous apprehension about Perry's wide appeal are the likely reasons for the quiet.
But leave it to Ron Paul to break the silence. Yesterday, the outspoken congressman seemed eager to answer a question about Perry, becoming one of the first candidate's to publicly articulate a particular concern that many conservatives--the Tea Party especially--have about Perry: that he's just part of the status quo. Whether you agree with this or not, Paul's very brief remarks are certainly worth a look:
Ever the gentleman, Paul refrains from the sort of character-smearing that the liberal media has been so quick to apply to Perry. But his unapologetic hits to Perry's record (during the Reagan years, Perry was a Democrat and chaired the Texas arm of Al Gore's presidential campaign) are to sure to become huge issues should Perry continue to climb the polls.
But are the congressman's accusations really justified? Ron Paul is indeed famous for his unwillingness to compromise on even the smallest of issues, and Rick Perry's record on other issues, such as job creation, is undoubtedly stellar. A closer examination of the governor's record, however, yields some disturbing results that may very well make his campaign somewhat of an uphill battle, especially win trying to persuade Tea Party voters. His history as a Democrat and a few other questionable actions as governor certainly can't help. For example, in 2007 Perry sidestepped huge opposition in the Texas legislature (largely from his own party) and issued an executive order forcing all teenage girls in Texas to get vaccinated for a sexually-transmitted disease (so much for abstinence only education...), regardless of parental concerns about the safety and/or necessity of the controversial drug. And to make the matter even stickier, Perry's former chief of staff was a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical company Merck (who created the vaccine) and the company had recently donated money to his campaign.
Now whether that really means he's just part of the 'establishment' is up for interpretation...it certainly does not condemn his candidacy, as no candidate is perfect in every respect. But I think it's safe to say that Ron Paul's concerns will soon be shared by at least some members of the Tea Party movement. At the very least, it's actually somewhat refreshing to see GOP candidates criticizing their fellow Republicans. Thus far, President Obama has been on the receiving end of almost all criticism. But with the Ames Straw Poll approaching, perhaps we will start to the field narrow as the candidates try to differentiate themselves from their opponents with a bit of healthy criticism.
But all that aside, what's this talk about Perry's candidacy representing a help to the Paul campaign? It's actually pretty accurate, if the polls are reliable. Paul has enjoyed a significant surge in the polls these past few weeks, effectively doubling his total support to beat Bachmann nationally, trailing only Romney and Perry in the most recent Gallup and CNN polls. And this surge does in fact come right as pollsters are beginning to include Perry on their list of candidates. Is the ever-growing number of GOP candidates actually diluting the vote enough to make Paul's intensely loyal and slowly growing number of followers the largest voting bloc in the GOP? One can only speculate. But the evidence looks promising for Paul's grassroots campaign. As Paul, ever the economist, put it:
"In free market economics, we don't worry about competition. We worry about expanding the market. So yes, there's a market over here (Perry's), but our market is constantly expanding, and [Perry's campaign] might motivate even more of our supporters to come out."
(The man just can't let an opportunity to talk free market economics go to waste...)