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Gov. Perry checks in – time to pay attention

  • Written by Jason Johnson
Texas governor Rick Perry brings to the presidential nomination race of 2012 something that has been sorely lacking — someone who actually wants to win the job.
 Dr. Jason Johnson

So far the Republican race to become the nominee to face President Obama in 2012 has been more interesting because of what is missing than what it actually has.

In fact the entire race had elicited little or no real attention until last weekend, when during the straw poll Texas governor Rick Perry finally announced that he was entering the race for Republican nominee. Now – for the first time this year – the race is truly worth paying attention to.

Gov. Perry brings to the presidential nomination race of 2012 something that has been sorely lacking — someone who actually wants to win the job. If you want to become president of the United States, especially if you’re planning on facing an incumbent with over a billion dollars in the bank, you better be dead set on winning the job. Many of the prominent Republicans until now don’t seem like they want the job.

Sarah Palin has become a parody of herself, attracting attention for talking about the presidency but not making any real moves to run for the job. Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the race after a poor showing in the Iowa straw polls, never seemed all that committed to the job either. I knew that he was done for as a candidate when he couldn’t give a straight answer about whether he thought he could beat Obama and when ducked every chance he could to attack Mitt Romney.

Romney doesn’t fare much better. Thus far his strategy seems to be “Win by NOT losing.” He hasn’t necessarily “won” any of the Republican debates so far, as much as he simply didn’t get outshined by someone else. He skipped the Iowa straw polls because as a “frontrunner” if he didn’t come in first it would hurt his chances. Such milquetoast caution is not going to win you the most important job in the world.

Thank God for Rick Perry. By announcing his bid for the presidency during the Iowa straw polls Perry showed the world, and the Republican field, that he doesn’t care what the rules are, or the polite way to campaigning, he wants this job, and if that means upstaging everyone else, then so be it.

At this point it is not clear whether Perry has the chops to actually go through with a whole campaign, or if he’ll actually win the nomination, but if the Republican Party and the current candidates are smart, they’ll see his entrance as an addition.

Perry gives every Republican nominee in the race a chance to actually differentiate themselves from the Republicans in Congress, who the nation now views as a ship of fools. Perry can be attacked as the “old way” of doing politics in America. The “Old” Republican Party of the Bush era that the Republicans hope the nation has amnesia about. All of the Bush baggage can be dredged up and laid at Perry’s feat, giving candidates such as Michelle Bachman, Romney and even Rick Santorum a chance to turn themselves into “New” Republicans that are ready to tackle America’s problems.

For the Republican voter and the GOP as a whole, this is a good opportunity as well. The GOP has a bad habit of picking winners in primaries and slowly forcing everyone else out. Party elders forced out everyone else in 2000 in favor of Bush even when McCain was polling better, just as they pushed out Mike Huckabee in ’08 in favor of McCain. A knockdown-dragout fight between Romney and Perry would focus the nation on GOP issues, criticisms of Obama and provide an actual battle-tested nominee rather than just a party parrot.

Regardless of who actually wins the GOP nomination, or how they go about doing it, rest assured they must be keenly aware of one basic fact. No matter how much they want the job, Obama is a formidable candidate. And even if the new GOP darlingPerry is the nominee, he’s still got to make a lot of moves if he wants to beat out the sitting president.

(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor of political science and communications at Hiram College in Ohio. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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