Can Perry Be Stopped?

The governor has quite a week in the polls.


Eileen Smith

Sure, he polls well, but can he debate?

 The polls keep looking better and better for Rick Perry, despite this week’s provocative headline in Politico, “Is Rick Perry Dumb?” Dumb or not, it sure seems to be working.

On Monday, a CNN/ORC International poll of Republicans and independent voters who lean Republican found that Perry’s still on top, with 27 percent of Republicans nationwide supporting him for the nomination. Romney’s in second with 14 percent. A poll released Tuesday from Public Policy Polling showed Perry leading among likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina with 36 percent, a full 20 points ahead of Mitt Romney. This shouldn’t be too surprising considering that Perry chose the Palmetto State to announce his official candidacy. I bet Romney’s ahead in Utah.

Not to be outdone by the furious polling conducted by CNN and PPP of every Republican-leaning household in the world, Quinnipiac University released its own national poll Wednesday showing that Perry is the first choice for 26 percent of Republican voters, followed by Romney at 20 percent. But there is some good news for Romney. He has a favorability rating of 57 percent compared to Perry’s 44 percent. Both candidates are running about even with President Obama, although on Thursday Rasmussen Reports showed Perry with a small edge over Obama, 44 to 41 percent. Likeability is clearly not a factor here.

So what should we make of Perry’s strong showing in the polls? Is he unstoppable? Or will he crack during next Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate? The debate, hosted by NBC News and Politico, will be held (naturally) at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. If you’ve ever seen Perry debate (a rare treat, as he avoids them at all costs), you’ll know this isn’t his strongest forum. There will be no bales of hay to casually place his cowboy boot upon. There will be no tea party crowd to whisper sweet nothings of secession and deportation to. There won’t be any snubbing of the media, since this is sponsored by the media and that would just be awkward. The governor is actually going to have to answer questions and acknowledge the other candidates. Perry doesn’t like sharing the stage, unless it’s with Ted Nugent.

Baby Got Backers

Fresh on the heels of receiving the coveted endorsement of one-time semi-celebrity gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, who was apparently trying to remind people of his existence, Perry got another key endorsement this week—that of influential evangelical leader Rick Scarborough. Scarborough, the founder of Vision America, told TIME that he would be making his case to other social conservatives. “That’s not to say Rick Perry is Jesus because he is not,” Scarborough said. “But when you look at his full body of work, he’s been the best governor we’ve ever had.” So, kind of like Jesus.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) also endorsed Perry, the first U.S. senator to do so in the 2012 primary. Inhofe told NBC News that Perry’s “gubernatorial experience, personal profile, and good looks” make him the candidate to beat. At least until Sarah Palin enters the race. She’s much better looking.

False Security

Meanwhile Perry is doing his best to piss off those already-cranky seniors by taking even more shots at Social Security. On a campaign stop in Iowa Saturday, he repeated accusations in his book, Fed Up!, that the program is unconstitutional and amounts to a “Ponzi scheme” for young people. “The idea that they’re working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie,” he said. Later Perry reasserted that he hadn’t backed off any of the claims in his book. “So read the book again and get it right,” he told the crowd, thereby assuming that anyone read it in the first place.

How to Ruin Perry’s Day…

…take away his sonogram law.

This week a federal judge in Austin found that several portions of the law, which requires sonograms for any woman seeking to obtain an abortion, were “unconstitutionally vague” and violate the First Amendment. The preliminary injunction issued by the court blocks the state from enforcing penalties against either the doctor or the woman. The law was to take effect on September 1. Of course, Perry can always blame it on that activist judge and the pesky First Amendment that got in the way. Nothing like red meat for the base.