Perry’s New Hampshire Dreaming

While Gingrich steals his rightful place in the sun, Perry tries to woo voters of a certain legal voting age with his conservative stances on immigration and traditional marriage.


Eileen Smith

In his dreams, Rick Perry is Newt Gingrich. He’s the comeback kid. He’s the Granite State boy wonder. He’s the one who received the coveted endorsement of the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader. He’s the guy that everyone’s talking about. Only with better hair.

In its endorsement, the Union Leader’s editorial board called Gingrich the true conservative with “courage and convictions” and “the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision” necessary to win the election. That’s got to hurt Perry, who has reminded voters time and again that he is the real conservative in this race. If he knew that he wouldn’t get the endorsement, he wouldn’t have publicly made out with the state’s homegrown maple syrup. Not only did they not endorse Perry, they had previously skewered him for his debate performances, otherwise known as really bad stand-up.

“He did more than misspeak. He did more than recklessly attack his own base and generally act like the class bully assigned to spend study hall with the chess club. He did more than forget his talking points and display an uncomfortable lack of knowledge of important topics. He simply suffocated.”

Border Line

But following last week’s coma-inducing Republican debate on foreign policy, one thing is clear—Gingrich’s softer, gentler approach on immigration may be his kryptonite. Despite the fact that Perry was criticized for his position on in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants, he recovered a bit on Tuesday with the backing of rabid anti-immigration reality star Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. One of the sheriff’s many accomplishments in the name of law enforcement is the construction of “tent cities” outside county jails to house illegal immigrants in 100-degree weather, District 9-style. If you’re looking to boost your anti-immigration credentials, this is the man you want on your side.

Appearing with Arpaio in New Hampshire, Perry said that he would support federal policy “to detain and to deport every illegal alien that we apprehend.” This is in stark contrast to Gingrich, who said that some illegal immigrants who have established themselves in this country should be able to pursue legal status and that it wasn’t feasible or humane to round them up and deport them. AMNESTY!

Although Perry continues to poll in single digits in New Hampshire (six percent!), he made it clear Tuesday that he wants everyone’s vote, unless you’re under the legal voting age of 21. Clearly Perry has some catching up to do, seeing that Congress passed a constitutional amendment in 1971 to lower the voting age to 18. Hint to the governor: You are now old enough to drink.

We’ll Always Have Iowa

Who needs New Hampshire anyway? Perry’s a hit in Iowa, at least with the anti-gay crowd. In the general electorate, he’s still polling in single digits (three percent!). Over the weekend he attended a Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines sponsored by Family Leader, a conservative evangelical group that requires any Republican candidate seeking its endorsement to sign the so-called “marriage pledge.” This sacred document includes a number of issues, including support for traditional marriage, personal fidelity to one’s spouse, the appointment of “faithful constitutionalists” as judges and reformation of anti-marriage elements in divorce law, and tax and welfare policy. Gingrich has yet to sign the pledge. That “fidelity” bit is pretty brutal.

Perhaps the planned $2.8 million media advertising blitz in Iowa can keep Perry’s dream alive. Or maybe it’s just time for him to wake up.