October 8th, 2010
09:59 AM ET
4 years ago

Anti-Washington crusade puts Perry close to re-election

Austin, Texas (CNN) - Rick Perry has been governor of Texas since the waning days of the Clinton administration.

The Republican has worked in the state capital of Austin in some fashion - state legislator, Agriculture Commissioner, Lieutenant Governor - since 1985, so long ago that he was actually a Democrat at the time of his first election.


As an aide to Perry's Democratic opponent in governor's race flippantly put it to CNN: "He's a 25-year incumbent."

So what's a career politician doing in the driver's seat in the late stages of this volatile campaign season, a year when establishment figures are nothing short of toxic?

Before any other major candidate this election cycle, Perry - who is seeking a third full term in office - tapped into grassroots anti-government fervor early and with gusto, famously floating the prospect of secession at a Tea Party rally in April 2009.

The swaggering, well-coiffed governor then cast his titanic Republican primary fight against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison earlier this year as a showdown between Texas values and federal overreach - and easily re-captured the nomination in March.

He moved on to the general election to face former Houston mayor Bill White, a wealthy businessman promising to bring competence and accountability to the governor's mansion.

But Perry never stopped running against Washington.

After picking up the endorsement of the Houston Police Officers Union on Thursday, Perry was asked by a reporter if he believes the Mexican government has been sufficient in its response to the killing of American citizen David Hartley last week at a popular lake along the border.

"No" was his answer, but he quickly blamed Washington for failing to secure the 1,200-mile border between Texas and Mexico.

"We do not need to let our border continue to deteriorate from the standpoint of having drug cartels tell us whether or not we can go in and bring back the body of an American citizen who has been killed," Perry said. "That is irresponsible."

It was a signature Perry moment – taking a regional matter and turning it into one more emblematic of the how President Obama has failed Texas.

Whether the topic is immigration, cap-and-trade, the stimulus package or health care reform, Perry reliably finds a way to weave controversial national issues into otherwise routine campaign appearances.

It's a potent, but not bulletproof, strategy in a state where nearly 60 percent of voters disapprove of Obama's performance in the White House, according to a Blum and Weprin Associates poll last month commissioned by major Texas newspapers.

The governor, though, has struggled to eclipse the 50 percent mark in most head-to-head polls.

Perry led White by a 48-43 margin in a Texas Lyceum poll of likely voters released this week, with Libertarian candidate Kathie Glass drawing five percent.

The Texas newspaper poll pegged Perry's approval rating at 48 percent.

"People talk nationally about an enthusiasm gap," White spokeswoman Katy Bacon said. "Rick Perry has an enthusiasm problem. There is a lot of Perry fatigue out there."

A Perry campaign adviser, granted anonymity to speak candidly about the race, admitted that the governor's long tenure in Austin is a liability, but scoffed at White for launching a flurry of television ads this summer without landing a major blow.

"If the guy had picked one message, one issue, and gone with it, this could have been a very different race," the Perry aide told CNN.

Both White and Glass say Perry's relentless focus on Washington, along with his refusal to appear at debates or meet with newspaper editorial boards, is an excuse to cover up a do-nothing record.

During a visit to a charter school in Houston on Wednesday, the soft-spoken White compared Perry to an irresponsible child trying to steer attention away from difficult problems facing Texas, mainly a broken border, underperforming schools and a possible $21 billion budget shortfall next year.

"One of the things that classroom teachers confront, and that they teach young people to do, is don't always blame somebody else – 'I forgot my book, or so-and-so didn't give me the assignment' – but to accept personal responsibility for those things that you are supposed to be responsible for," White said.

"I have yet to hear Rick Perry in nine and a half years claim any responsibility for the many, many management shortcomings and lack of results that he's brought," he added.

Glass, an attorney who has kept up a rigorous campaign schedule aimed at what she called "the liberty vote," said Perry offers nothing but "empty rhetoric," particularly when facing the border problem.

"Our Constitution makes it a duty a responsibility of the governor to be commander-in-chief of our state military," Glass told CNN at a fundraiser for her bare-bones but scrappy campaign operation.

"The state guard is to be used for the purpose of enforcing state law and repelling invasions among other things, and those are two things that we should be using our guard for along the border."

But even Perry's opponents concede that his strategy of running against Washington has some resonance at a time of national frustration over the sluggish economy and the seeming inability of current political leaders to fix it.

When Obama visited Austin and Dallas for fundraisers in August, for instance, White opted to campaign elsewhere.

And asked this week if the Democratic Party is a popular brand in Texas, White shrugged and dismissed the question. "It's popular in some, it's unpopular among other people," he said.

"This race is not about dividing Texans into red teams and blue teams," he explained. "That's what Rick Perry has done traditionally. I have found that most Texans want someone who can bring people together to get things done."


Filed under: 2010 • Bill White • Kathie Glass • Rick Perry • Texas
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Mr. Moderate

    Oh yes, Mr. Anti-Washington....For all of Rick Perry's talk against big government and his alleged pro-business stances, during his term in office, government employment in Texas has grown faster than the private sector. Between December 2000 and August 2010, Government employment in Texas has increased by 9.6%, while private sector employment has grown by 7.0%. Even state government where Mr. Perry has the most control increased by 5.6% or nearly 19,000 individuals and for all his talk against the federal government including secession and his refusal to accept stimulus funds, there are 23,200 more Texans working for the Federal Government now than before he took office, an increase of nearly 13%. So yet again, these Republicans only talk about reducing government. When they control it, it's OK.

    October 8, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Say what you will about Perry, he's got great hair! And that's VERY important to right-wingers!

    October 8, 2010 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  3. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    So, people need to ask what is Perry running for? I thought he was running for governor of Texas and not US Senate. If I were his opponent, I would point that out.

    October 8, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. Allen

    The strategy of deflecting all the blame of the sluggish economy on to the Dems is very effective for those who listen to sound bites and Fox News. For those who dig deeper, and it doesn't take much, the reality is a completely different story. Has trickle down economics worked so far? What was the plan to fund the two wars? Never an answer. The Repubs do not represent average Americans, only the wealthy and big business. I'm not handing that power back; that would be foolish and extremely reckless right now.

    October 8, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  5. Why are Rush and his Mafia in hiding all the time?

    This clown is the mouthpiece for ExxonMobil and the Texas Sword Makers.He was in the movie "Quest for Fire",dragging his knuckles and making strange sounds,hahaha.People around the World now think Texas is full of stupid people thanks to him and Dick Armey.

    October 8, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  6. mu-shoo

    Funny how Republicans proclaim to be the party of states' rights, wanting a small federal government. Yet Perry keeps looking to Washington to solve all of Texas' problems. More pass-the-blame Republican politics at work.

    He's done nothing to secure our border and, based on our education rankings, nothing to secure our future.

    – Texas is #49 in verbal SAT scores in the nation (493) and #46 in average math SAT scores (502).
    – Texas is #36 in the nation in high school graduation rates (68%).
    – Texas is #6 in the nation in student growth. The general student population in Texas public schools grew by 11.1% between school years 1999 and 2005, with the largest percent of growth seen among low income and minority children.
    – Between school years 1999 and 2005, the number of central administrators employed by Texas public schools grew by 32.5%, overall staffing in public schools grew by 15.6%, while the number of teachers grew only 13.3%.

    October 8, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  7. Klaxon McFlinderginder

    A career politician who is campaigning against career politicians. Tea freaks are the most gullable voters on the planet.

    Tea Party – because the insane need a political party too.

    October 8, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  8. c edgar

    White will not win not because he is a D, but because of how he preformed as mayor. No, I m not talking about
    a ad ran by Perry. I have friends that live in the area and they told me how preformed as a mayor. He is not a
    good fit for Texas. He should move to Calf.

    October 8, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  9. T'SAH from Virginia

    I am so sick of the ANTI-WASHINGTON debate by these officials who are running and if they WIN, they WILL BE WASHINGTON!!!!! And when they get there, they will continue to say NO and be more of the SAME when BUSH was in office!!! How can the majority of Americans be that ANGRY at Washington when things are getting BETTER!!!! It’s called the new ‘microwave world with Intel installed’!!!!

    Okay, the unemployment stayed at 9.6% but PLEASE recognize that it's that way because this IS an ELECTION YEAR and the BIG CORPs has their hands 'completely' in the RACE!!! They are feeding $$$$$$$$$$ to the RepubliCAN'Ts – foreign interest is involved – corruption is involved – special interests is involved!! BIG CORPs will get FAVORS in RETURN and is this what we really want in WASHINGTON???

    President Obama is on the right track and he needs to have all of those who elected him to STAY FOCUSED and get behind him so for the next two years, his ENTIRE AGENDA will be fulfilled!! WE ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK!!

    DEMOCRATS – continue to STATE the CASE and mean it – UNITE the BASE and be proud of it and we will WIN the RACE in November!!

    This is T'SAH from Virginia and I approve this message!!

    October 8, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  10. gt

    all texas has to do is look what a mess houston politics are in and who was there mayor...white is a looser...

    October 8, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  11. ray gibbs

    His facial contortion, raised arm, hot-button-only-issue–"anti-Washington"–says more about his personal longing to be cooed & nurtured by Mom-State-Government.

    October 8, 2010 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  12. Haren

    We are held hostage by corporation demanding that we will not hire anybody till you give us text cut,allowed us to ship jobs,deregulate so that we can oil spill in Mexico, speculate market and ditch the economy with shoddy deal in wall street and last thing elect our friend republican in congress

    October 8, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  13. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Mr. Perry is what "entitlement" looks like.

    October 8, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  14. Jeff in Virginia

    Another day, another positive opinion piece for the Republicans, brought to you by Peter Hamby.

    October 8, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. Chipster

    I'm skeptical of the "Mexican Pirate" story. The wife supposedly looked for the body but couldn't find it? Where were the pirates and why didn't they take her, the boat, or anything else of value? It just doesn't necessarily add up.

    However, if Perry manages to get Texas to secede, it would save the U.S. a lot of money. For every $ in Federal Taxes paid, Texas receives $.94 back along with all the services they represent. For every $ in Federal Taxes paid, Alaska receives $1.84 back along with all the services they represent. We could cut those services and not lose much with Texas.

    October 8, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  16. ED FL

    hopefully Perry will suceed and secede from the united states and become part of Mexico.In addition it will be a plus for the United states , if he can convince Arizona and Mccain to go also we could get back to being a great {HONEST} country again

    October 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  17. Karen Sasser

    I agree that Perrys record speaks for its self and refers to what his running message should be, The Texas side stepper.

    October 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  18. Britannia

    So, Perry "confronts" the President with a letter outlining what he, Perry, thinks Washington ought to do for the Texas border – the term "confronts" taken from his latest ad. Perry's been in office for a heck of a long time but I've yet to find any mention of his mounting a serious attempt to secure the border with Mexico – until now of course. His craggy looks, perfectly made up features, well coiffed hair, lack of grammatical know how and empty rhetoric appear to be going down well with the Bob the plumber types here in Texas don't they? No wait, that was Ms Palin's creation wasn't it?

    October 8, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  19. diridi

    Texan, do not be idiotic, just vote for any Democrat....This idiot does not do any thing for you..vote for Democrats....Economy is recuperating....look at the roads they are far better than GOP thugs rule...

    October 8, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. kiri11

    Rick Perry refuses to attend any debate against Bill White. The people of Texas have questions that they want to ask him.
    Like, how did a career politician living off taxpayers for the last 25 years become a millionaire who bills a $10,000 a month rental mansion to Texans? Or, why would Texas' governor work less than ten hours a week on state business when the state is facing an unprecedented $18 billion budget hole? Why Perry, are you rewriting school history books and deleting Thomas Jefferson out of context? What has Perry done to protect our borders the last 8 years? What makes Perry think it's okay to give $16 million in Texas taxpayer dollars to companies tied to his biggest donors?

    FACE US RICK PERRY. STOP HIDING.

    October 8, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  21. LacrosseMom(real one)

    "Close to reelection" ........5 points??? Wow. CNN let's let the Poll on November 2nd decide who is "close". Shall we?

    October 8, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  22. Stephanie

    Rick Perry is a dang good governor!! He is and always has been good for Texas and Texans see THAT! While other call what he is doing 'rhetoric' Texans aren't fooled! We don't pay attention to the real rhetoric out there which is spewed by White, Glass (who is having no impact on this campaign), and the lamestream media!
    Talk about no enthusiams, that's tough words coming from a man (Bill White) who is the most boring, dull, and uninspiring person I've ever seen. Perry is dang good at giving amazing speeches that make you stand up and cheer! You don't believe it, them you've never seen Rick Perry or heard him even once. White on the other hand, zzzzzzz.
    And Perry's got another thing White does not (besides a winning campaign, and re-election around the cornor) Perry's got the good looks! Mmmm, good thing this election is not about who's hottier, even White would have to vote for Perry in this one.

    October 8, 2010 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  23. keeth in california

    Perry is anti-Washington, and yet he took evil stimulus money for Texas. He wants Texas to secede, but at the same time he keeps Texas on federal welfare year after year. Perry is talking out of both sides of his mouth, one to the people, and the other to the feds when he wants money from DC. He's a hypocrite and a murderer (search Cameron Todd Willingham).

    October 8, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  24. Patsy, Texas

    Don't count your chickens before they hatch. Perry blames Washington regarding the Texas/Mexico border, but what did he
    AND then President Bush (Texan) do about the border? Nada! Maybe you call it flippant, I call it the truth, He Is a
    25 Year Incumbant! We have nearly the most uninsured children of any State, we are at the bottom on education, we have an
    18 billion dollar deficit, and he touts that he lowered property taxes. Well, mine went up, and I don't know anyone who had
    their taxes cut. So, dream on Ticker, but the "fat lady has not sung" yet.

    October 8, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |