With poor performances in recent candidate debates and unsatisfactory explanations for controversial initiatives, Governor Perry has gone from a 13 point August lead to a three to seven point deficit in recent polls. In fact, he trails both Mitt Romney and Herman Cain by five points in the 10/2/11 CBS News poll (Romney – 17%, Cain – 17%, Perry – 12%).
Are debate gaffes the only reason Perry’s numbers are declining? While his opponents understandably attack his characterization of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme,” his executive order mandating that Texas girls receive the HPV vaccine and his ongoing support for providing in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants, are these stances why Republican voters are turning away?
Many think his weak debates are a symptom of deeper problems. On a recent “Fox & Friends” appearance, former Republican candidate Mike Huckabee thought Perry looked dumbfounded at an immigration question he should have seen coming. Huckabee indicate that Perry’s apparent exhaustion proved the he “is not prepared for the pressure of the presidential stage.”
Perry’s handling of Texas’s economy has also come under scrutiny. Despite the number of new jobs created, 23 states have a lower unemployment rate than Texas (8.2% in August). 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%). Plus, the state’s poverty level continues to increase (from 15.1% in 2009 to 18.4% in 2010).
Others are questioning whether Perry’s strong social conservatism and its influence on his policy making might turn off independent and moderate voters.
Perry is staunchly pro-life and opposes government funding for elective abortions. As governor, Perry signed the Prenatal Protection Act – which explicitly included fetuses in its definition of human life – and another bills that limited late-term abortions, required girls under the age of 18 to notify their parents before having an abortion, and required providers to offer informational brochures to women considering abortion.
Perry has also stated that he believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and that those who don’t accept Jesus as their savior will go to hell. He also describes himself “a firm believer in intelligent design as a matter of faith and intellect,” and has expressed support for its teaching alongside evolution in Texas schools.
No one said that running for president would be easy. Especially when your debating skills are lacking, your economic record is uneven, and your religious views are considered extreme by a majority of the electorate.