Four summers ago, 73 percent of Republicans were satisfied with the candidates seeking the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Now, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll revealed on Wednesday, only 45 percent of Republicans are happy with today’s 2012 contenders.
Despite pro-market ideas and an impressive, limited-government record, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty seems too genteel to leapfrog the apparent frontrunner, Willard Mitt Romney. For his part, Massachusetts’s telegenic former governor is a philosophical contortionist. He has inhabited at least two sides of nearly every major issue and even defends an individual mandate for health insurance, provided that state governments inflict it, à la Romneycare. Romney, thus, would let the states becomes laboratories of tyranny.
Texas governor Rick Perry, 61, could cure the GOP’s ennui. As America’s economy slumbers, Perry tells a stimulating story about Texas’s pro-market growth and job creation, two subjects atop the American mind.
Gov. Rick Perry (R., Tex.) greets a young admirer.
Between January 2001 and June 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates, Texas’s non-farm employment grew from 9,542,400 in January 2001, when Perry took office, to 10,395,800 in June 2010 — an increase of 853,400 or 8.9 percent. Big-government California simultaneously lost 827,800 jobs. Employment in Texas grew more than in the other 49 states combined. “Texas was one of the very few which even added jobs over that time,” BLS’s Cheryl Abbot told PolitiFact.com.
Since June 2009, when the Great Recession officially ended, Texas has produced 265,300 net jobs, equal to 36.7 percent of the 722,200 positions created nationwide. Even during the downturn, the Texas Public Policy Foundation discovered, Texas’s peak employment dropped by 2.3 percent, versus California’s 8.7 percent plunge.
As last October 27’s Wall Street Journal opined, “Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio have become destinations for investment and entrepreneurship. Texas has become a mecca for high tech, venture capital, aeronautics, health care, and even industrial manufacturing, like the building of cars and trucks.”
For seven years running, CEOs polled by Chief Executive magazine have rated Texas first in business development and job growth. Texas boasts 58 Fortune 500 companies — more than any other state.
As America’s No. 1 exporting state, Texas shipped $206.6 billion in goods abroad last year, a full 16 percent of America’s $1.28 trillion in exports. California’s $143.3 billion in exports ranked it second, with 11.2 percent of U.S. outflow.
Americans seeking opportunity often vote with their feet. Texas wins that race in a landslide. “Texas led all other states with a net in-migration of 500,000 people from 2004 to 2008,” W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm found in a report for Southern Methodist University’s O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom.
Texas’s achievements so stunned Gavin Newsom, California’s Democratic lieutenant governor, that he flew a delegation to Austin last May to ask Perry how he lures defectors from the Golden State. Of the 70 companies that fled California in 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund reported last April, 14 relocated to Texas — these exiles’ favorite destination.
So, what is Perry’s secret? Texas taxes neither personal incomes nor capital gains, and Perry proposed a 2010 constitutional amendment to require two-thirds supermajorities to legislate tax hikes. Beyond that, as Perry told Manhattan Republicans on Tuesday, “don’t spend all the money.” He advised “a regulatory climate that is fair and predictable” as well as “a legal system that doesn’t allow for over-suing.” Thus, Perry signed a ground-breaking “loser pays” tort reform and medical-litigation rules that caused malpractice-insurance rates to fall. Some 20,000 doctors since have flooded Texas.
Texas is a right-to-work state, which Perry should trumpet nationally. He should demand a woman’s right to choose — whether or not to join a union. Indeed, Perry should promise to fight for and sign Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R., S.C.) National Right to Work Act.
On Dec. 21, 2000, while Illinois state senator Barack Obama was casting some of his 129 “present” votes, Perry took over a state government that now features some 384,000 workers and a $172.5 billion biennial budget. While Obama’s oratory often soars, he sometimes seems disengaged and indecisive — as if the Oval Office were a training facility. As Texas’s governor for a record ten years, Perry’s executive experience is quadruple Obama’s. A President Perry would not need a how-to guide in the White House.
Perry rejected federal taxpayer dollars for education and unemployment assistance, arguing that the “free money” was not worth having the Lone Star State lassoed by the strings that usually accompany Washington’s checks.
Perry also perfectly reflects the zeitgeist, which finds citizens annoyed with Uncle Sam’s sniffing about in virtually every crevice of American life.
“The American people are fed up,” he writes in his 2010 book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.
“We are fed up with being overtaxed and overregulated. We are tired of being told how much salt we can put on our food, what windows we can buy for our houses, what kinds of cars we can drive, what kinds of guns we can own, what kinds of prayers we are allowed to say and where we can say them, what political speech we are allowed to use to elect candidates, what kind of energy we can use, what kind of food we can grow, what doctor we can see, and countless other restrictions on our right to live as we see fit.”
“After four years of Obama officials forcing Americans to do things they have no constitutional authority to impose, such as requiring people to buy health insurance, the public might embrace a Tenth Amendment advocate,” Dr. Merrill Matthews of the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas recently argued in Forbes.
My old friend and fellow commentator Quin Hillyer suggests tapping on the brakes before the pro-Perry bandwagon approaches ramming speed.
“A governor of Texas can do well just by being hands-off, including keeping his hands off his own administration,” Hillyer told me. “What we need in Washington is somebody who is activist within the administration in order to dismantle all the outrages of government. Perry inherited a good situation and thrived by doing nothing; doing nothing in Washington means leaving the status quo in effect, which would be awful.”
Such skepticism aside, Perry’s biggest challenge may be that he is the governor of Texas. Americans suffered through the mitigated disaster that was George W. Bush’s presidency. They may recoil at electing another commander-in-chief from Austin. Perhaps more worrisome for Perry are his appearance and mannerisms. At a well-delivered speech to the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank in Dallas on April 28, Perry did not quite resemble Bush. However, he mirrored actor James Brolin’s portrayal of the 43rd president in Oliver Stone’s film W.
Perry can overcome this potential handicap by loudly and explicitly distancing himself from the White House’s disgraced former occupant.
There reportedly is little love lost between Perry and the aristo-socialist Bush family and their political henchman, the annoyingly ubiquitous Karl Rove. Team Bush backed U.S. senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Tex.) in her failed primary bid to unseat Perry in March 2010. Perry should relish this rift and educate voters about it. He should remind them of Bush’s LBJ-like spendaholism and Carteresque regulatory overreach (e.g. Bush’s repugnant 2007 ban on Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb, effective 2012). Perry should declare that his domestic agenda will not echo Bush’s, much beyond tax relief and school choice.
As the anti-Obama and anti-Bush, Perry soon could emerge as a seasoned, competent, growth-generating conservative. This should unite the Republican base, make tea partiers boil with glee, and magnetize independents and sensible Democrats. If so, voters just might dispatch Barack Obama to design his presidential library.
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.