Despite his late entry into the race, the August RealClearPolitics.com average of six leading presidential polls showed Perry with a 5 point lead over Mitt Romney, his nearest rival. In fact, the August 25th CNN/Opinion Research poll credited Perry with a 13 point lead (Perry – 27, Romney – 14, Palin – 10, Bachmann – 9).
So, will another former Texas Governor take residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
On the country’s most pressing issue — unemployment — Perry can make an impressive case. Since June, 2009, over 40% of all net new US jobs were created in Texas. The Governor maintains his pro-growth agenda which included tax cuts, incentives for new technologies, strong tort reforms, and investments in education is largely responsible for the state’s thriving economy.
But, Rick Perry has no shortage of critics. Opponents, including many Republicans, point to a number of factors which may trouble conservatives, and ultimately undermine his candidacy:
- Since Perry assumed office, state spending has nearly doubled from $49 billion in 2000 to approximately $90 billion in 2010. This contradicts his “reduce the size of government” theme.
- Despite the number of new jobs created, 23 states have a lower unemployment rate than Texas (8.2% in August).
- Texas’s total debt has increased 281% during Perry’s tenure (from $13.4 billion in 2001 to $34 billion in 2010).
- Perry received $37 million over 10 years from just 150 donors (over a third of the $102 million he had raised as governor). Almost half of those donors received big contracts, tax breaks or appointments during Perry’s tenure.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9.5% of hourly-paid workers in Texas are paid at or below minimum wage (the national percentage is 6.0%).
- Perry’s overt religious faith and often stated belief in “intelligent design” make many moderates uncomfortable. He is strongly pro-life, opposes public funding of elective abortions, and supports amending the Texas constitution to define marriage as “only a union between a man and a women.”
- The state’s educational performance is poor. Texas has the lowest percentage of adults with high school diplomas, is 49th in verbal SAT scores and 46th in average math SAT scores.
- A former Democrat, Perry served as Al Gore’s campaign chairman in the state of Texas in 1988.