Rick Perry's entry into the Republican nomination process has transformed the 2012 election into a truly memorable contest. Before his entry, conservatives were stuck with a choice between a hard-nosed newcomer with just two House elections under her belt and a penchant for occasional gaffes, and a smooth-talking corporate type who fathered ObamaCare and ranked 47 out of 50 in state job growth as governor of Massachusetts -- hardly inspiring options.
Perry changes the game. This election cycle is going to be about two main issues: the economy and the nature of what America will look like. Perry is an advocate with a record on both scores.
First, the economy: President Obama's economic record is well known; he is the worst fiscal failure since FDR. His meddling with the monetary supply has raised prices dramatically. His government programs have artificially inflated real estate prices and delayed the necessary foreclosures that would allow the market to recover. His coma-inducing debt spending has destroyed America's credit and sold our children and grandchildren into financial servitude.
Perry, by contrast, has presided over a state that has gained jobs since the beginning of 2008. Even leaving aside government jobs, Texas has only lost 0.5 percent of its jobs since the beginning of 2008, as opposed to 6.6 percent nationally. When it comes to debt, Perry has the upper hand as well. While Texas increased its spending substantially over the last decade, the portion of the spending directly controlled by Perry -- state general revenue spending -- has declined. Perry has repeatedly cut taxes and worked with legislators this year to cut spending by $15 billion.
His record isn't perfect. Texas has increased government employment dramatically, thanks mostly to growth in the military and energy sectors. Texas' state debt stands at $34 billion, most of it from transportation spending and cancer research. The problem for Obama is that he can't attack Perry on any of this. If he does, he'll highlight the fact that as of January 2012, he will have escalated the national debt by over $5 trillion since he took office. Most of it has been on bailouts, health care bills and giveaways to his union buddies. In short, he has no ammunition in his gun; he'll be bringing a peashooter to this gunfight.
Then there's the broader issue of the 2012 election: What will the future of America look like? Obama has articulated a future of more entitlement spending, higher taxes and slower growth. He assures us that we will all be provided the security we so desperately seek. On foreign policy, Obama has explained that limiting American growth can create greater world equality and less Western imperial overreach, which in turn will allow for mutual respect.
The problem with this vision is that real world experience stands in direct contrast with it. Even as Obama preaches the virtues of the welfare state, Europe is aflame with leeches who riot when they don't get their checks. Even as he exhorts Americans to accept a lesser role on the world stage, the threats of Iran, China and Russia grow ever larger.
Perry's vision is different. He wants an America free from the heavy hand of government -- as he put it in his announcement speech, he will "work every day to try to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can." He wants to restore pride to the American military, rather than discomfort at fighting wars that their Commander in Chief denies even exists. His philosophy is clear and compelling.
For conservatives to win in 2012, we must give Americans a clear choice. We must present someone with governing experience; we have tried an untested candidate, and he has failed. We must offer-up someone who understands that individuals, not governments, create jobs; we have tried the corporatist approach, and it has failed. We must present someone who believes in a bright future for America, not a quiet descent into mediocrity.
Rick Perry certainly seems to fill those qualifications.