Rick Perry, Leticia Van De Putte, Adena Williams Loston, Ronny Congleton
Kin Man Hui  /  AP
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, center, at St. Philip's College in San Antonio, Texas on Thursday.
updated 7/17/2011 10:47:12 AM ET 2011-07-17T14:47:12

Should Rick Perry conclude that voter discontent has left him an opening to enter the presidential race, the longtime Texas governor would be among the GOP field's most conservative candidates.

Primary voters would get a skilled politician with TV anchorman looks, a Southern preacher's oratory and a cowboy's swagger, matched by a disarming candor and sense of humor. The former cotton farmer from the village of Paint Creek in West Texas has never lost an election in nearly three decades as a politician.

What they wouldn't get is a candidate whose politics are positioned to unite a Republican electorate that stretches from moderate pro-business fiscal conservatives to evangelical social conservatives, with the tea party falling somewhere along the spectrum.

"Texans, God love them, have that bigger-than-life persona about politics and that doesn't necessarily play everywhere," said Christopher Nicholas, a Republican political consultant who has worked extensively in the Northeast and Midwest. "I haven't heard a lot of Republicans call Social Security a disease."

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Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field

Perry has. He branded Social Security and other New Deal programs "the second big step in the march of socialism," according to a book published last year. The "first step" was a national income tax, which he has said stands alongside the direct election of U.S. senators as a major mistake among the amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In the just-completed Texas legislative session, Perry's "emergency items" included laws that require a photo ID in order to vote, a sonogram before a woman had an abortion and enforcement of federal immigration laws by local police.

Is he too conservative?
He rejects the idea of global warming and the theory of evolution, arguing for natural climate variations and intelligent design of the universe.

In fact, he said last year when promoting his book, "Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America From Washington," which was a state's rights treatise that railed against the federal government, that he's too conservative to run for national office.

"The best concrete evidence that I'm really not running for president is this book, because when you read this book, you're going to see me talking about issues that for someone running for public office, it's kind of been the third rail if you will," Perry told The Associated Press shortly after winning re-election in 2010.

Story: Texas governor defends prayer day after lawsuit filed

Perry doesn't shy away from his deep conservatism. He embraces it with the same vigor with which he dismisses those who found his shooting of a coyote while the governor was jogging or spending tens of thousands of campaign dollars on a luxury rental home unbecoming a state chief executive.

Working with the fundamentalist American Family Association, Perry urged people to participate in a day of prayer and fasting on Aug. 6, following the example of the Bible's book of Joel. Courting evangelical Christians always has been one of his core campaign strategies.

"When it comes to conservative social issues, it saddens me when sometimes my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left," Perry told the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans this year. "Our party cannot be all things to all people."

Perry ranks high in Iowa, New Hampshire polls
In the few polls that have included Perry, he ranks high among Republican primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, told The Associated Press on Saturday he thinks it's very likely that Perry will jump into the race and reshape the state's caucuses.

Story: Perry 2012 run likely, Iowa governor says

"I get the definite impression he's very likely to run," Branstad said, basing his opinion on a conversation the governors had Friday. "I think he becomes a significant factor if he becomes a candidate," Branstad said. "It could change the whole complexion of the Iowa caucus race."

Should he run, Perry would seek the support of a wing of the party already courted by conservatives in important states such as Iowa. Those would-be rivals include U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a tea party favorite; former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a favorite of anti-abortion activists; and former businessman Herman Cain.

That could split the vote of the party's conservative base, giving an opening to other Republicans seeking support across the GOP spectrum.

They include front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has reversed positions on several issues conservatives hold dear; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, whose moderate positions on some issues make him a nonstarter for conservatives; and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is struggling to break out of the pack.

Unlike some of those candidates, Perry has been consistent on culturally conservative issues.

State's rights his signature issue
State's rights, however, is his signature issue.

In 2009, at one of the first rallies of a movement that would evolve into the tea party, he evoked the possibility that Texas might be better off seceding from the Union if what he called federal overreach continued.

Story: Perry calling GOP leaders in N.H., Iowa

He's since said that lawmakers in state capitals should decide whether to legalize gay marriage or marijuana. In 2010, he toyed with the idea of pulling Texas out of Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care for low-income people. Perry gave up on the idea when the state's comptroller said it would bankrupt the state.

Perry's faith in the wisdom of local lawmakers and state's rights has led him into strident fights with the Environmental Protection Agency.

In June, Perry signed a largely symbolic bill that allows Texas companies to continue producing incandescent light bulbs banned by the EPA, as long as they are sold within the state. Texas is the only state that has refused to put in place the EPA's new rules regulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

Shawn Steel, a member of the Republican National Committee, met with Perry when he visited to California in late June. Steel said Perry sounds a lot like another big-state governor who was able to rely on charisma to win voters over to his conservative ideals. That was California's Ronald Reagan.

"Reagan said a lot of controversial things, far more than Rick Perry," Steel said. "It's how he explained them and addressed them with that disarming smile of his and a very clever quip. Can Rick do that? That's the question."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Rick Perry still considering 2012 run

  1. Closed captioning of: Rick Perry still considering 2012 run

    >>> republican field for 2012 may be set, but there's a gop figure in an even bigger state who could still shake up the primaries. rick perry 's advisers are putting together information to help the texas governor decide whether the momentum and perhaps more importantly the money are there to make the run for the white house a reality. richard fowler is a democratic strategist and sherry jacobis is a republican strategist and a columnist for "the hill." thanks for joining us. so the christian right leaders want rick perry to throw his hat, maybe the ten-gallon hat, i haven't seen fashion pictures of him lately, into the ring. he's planning a christian prayer event august. who do you think the bigger threat to obama is? perry from texas or romney who is really out in front on the economy?

    >> well, i don't think either are a big threat to romney . when it comes to rick perry throwing his prayer fest, i'm not really sure what that's going to do for him. at the end of the day , the budget of texas is still taking on water. you know, he might be a good fund-raiser, but i'm not sure if he has the capability to moupt a campaign that could defeat mitt romney .

    >> sheerry, who do you like?

    >> i do like perry . i think this could be bad news for pawlenty. your top tier would be romney , bachmann and perry and all three are bad news for president obama .

    >> why perry ?

    >> well, perry 's good because out of -- since 2009 , 37% of all the new jobs created nationwide have been in the state of texas . so that's pretty darn good. he's got a very good record. in terms of the christian leaders liking him, that certainly helps him. but my sense, my opinion is that the christian conservative vote could very easily be split amongst several candidates in the field. the top three, in fact, which is a good thing. i think people care about the economy, obviously for moral reasons and family reasons that people want jobs. they want everybody to be able to work and support their family. so there's something about perry that can appeal to christian conserve piatie conservatives, tea partiers and that's the big uniting issue and perry can be strong on that. that's why a perry candidacy would be horrific for obama .

    >> i disagree here, though. at the end of the day , though --

    >> shocking.

    >> when it comes down to it, i don't think perry 's right for the republican ticket. i think he's going to have a hard time convincing rank-and-file republicans to join him. you know, since he's been governor, we've seen -- even though people say they're creating a lot of jobs to texas , no what avail? he's cut education by 30%, made tons of cuts. the only reason is because of president obama 's stimulus dollars.

    >> yeah, those stimulus dollars are not creating jobs in this country. we don't have all those shovel-ready projects. there's a lot of people standing in line waiting for these jobs that the president promised. and i don't think that you've got more than 14 million unemployed americans are going to go to the polls next fall -- or in the fall of 2012 and pull the lever for a president who's failed to create jobs that they so greatly need. they may like obama personally, but that's just not going to happen.

    >> perry is waging a big battle on the border. there are more agents, more drones, more high-technical ras than ever before. yet the illegal flow of people and the drug problem is worse than ever. this can come back to haunt him in a presidential run, can't it?

    >> well, unless things start turning around. i think the fact that there's an effort being made where in the past many people feel there has not been enough of an effort made on the border. that can certainly help him. if he's sort of trending in the right direction, that's going to help him a lot. but people do want results. but if he's got results on jobs and on budgets, then he can start getting results along the border. and you've got a large segment of the christian right that like him. and he's going to be good for independents and some democrats, you know, you might be looking at the next president. but i think at a minimum, he can give romney and bachmann a run for their money. they all have a lot of strength. so i'd be pretty happy with that as our first tier.

    >> richard, final word.

    >> well, you know, she talks about governor perry , you know, his work on the budget. he really hasn't done any work on the budget. the budget is basically taking on water if it weren't for the stimulus dollars. under obama we've seen 240 million jobs created. at the end of the day , i don't think any candidate in the gop field will face the challenge to the president. i can't wait to see his fund-raising numbers with the momentum that will take him into 2012 and into another term.

    >> thanks for joining us.


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