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Perry and the Social Cons

Gov. Rick Perry’s Day of Prayer proposal and well-publicized chats with God are clearly aimed at attracting social conservatives, but there’s one obstacle that could stand in his way: Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee is no fan of Perry, as he makes clear in this recent email to supporters:

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is still flirting with a run, and it’s the type of flirting even his wife approves of. The Dallas Morning News reports that a campaign button collector ordered a “Perry for Governor 2010” button from Perry’s office. What he got back was a button, all pressed and ready to go, that reads, “Perry – President – 2012.” So if Perry’s not running, then that button will be a REAL collector’s item. For all his new found commitment to hyper-conservatism, he’ll get to explain why he supported pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage Rudy Guiliani last time.

Why is Huckabee letting one endorsement overshadow Perry’s entire career? Because for him, this is a personal grudge. Politico’s Jonathan Martin reports the animosity toward Perry likely stems from the Texas governor declining to endorse Huckabee in 2008:

“I love Mike,” Perry told an Iowa crowd in 2007. “I mean, he’s like a brother. I just don’t think he can win and I shared that with him. And [Huckabee] asked me to be his national chairman about six months ago and I told him, I said, ’Man, I love you like a brother, but just let me slide here.’ It was a hard conversation to call and tell him I was for Rudy. He was disappointed and a bit frustrated. I still love him and he loves me.”

Not only did Perry turn Huckabee down, he also took some swipes at him while campaigning for Giuliani. “This isn’t the presidency of Iowa and New Hampshire we’re talking about. This is the presidency of the United States we’re talking about,” said Perry in 2007. “The idea of the hare and the tortoise comes to mind.”

If Huckabee decides to really go after Perry “phoniness” on social conservative issues from his platform at Fox News, it could influence how the Texas governor is perceived with evangelicals and in Iowa. Perry can obviously defend himself by playing up his record, but it would be a struggle for him to win over social conservatives if Huckabee also throws his weight behind someone like Michele Bachmann, who’s already incredibly popular with values voters.

And Perry may have more problems than just Huckabee. Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed, an influential evangelical leader, has also been dismissive of Perry, according to Religion Dispatches. “I don’t see him being a factor,” Reed told the Christian Post, when asked about a potential Perry presidential run. Even a good personal record on social conservative issues may not help Perry if enough evangelical leaders turn against him.



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