As Jonathan wrote, after last night’s debate it appears that Rick Perry is going to steamroll the rest of the GOP field unless he “does something a lot worse than using rhetoric about Social Security that the GOP core applauds.”
Only one moment in last night’s debate pitted the probable nominee against other conservatives on stage. The issue was about Perry’s executive order requiring Texas’ girls to have the Gardasil vaccine against the HPV virus. Many on the right have accused Perry of overstepping his bounds, of promoting promiscuity among 12-year old girls in the state. In August, Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw had a great piece defending Perry’s decision to mandate a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer.
Shaw explains this FDA-approved vaccine has been proven to prevent a virus that causes cancer in 12,000 women a year in the United States, taking the lives of a full third of them. Last night, Perry didn’t step down from his decision, explaining, “We wanted to bring that to the attention of these thousands of … tens of thousands of young people in our state. We allowed for an opt-out.”
Will this row between Perry and the right help or hurt his possible candidacy against Barack Obama next November? The more Perry is forced to talk about his decision, the more centrist he appears to independent and undecided voters. While many on the right resent (usually rightfully so) any intrusion of the government in their lives, Perry’s decision to mandate a life-saving vaccine is not unprecedented. Most voters don’t take a Ron Paul view of the world, recognizing that the requirement to obtain a proven safe and effective vaccine is not the government’s way of taking control of citizens’ private lives.
Perry’s decision to stand by his executive order last night sent a message to middle-of-the-road voters: I am of the Tea Party, but I am not controlled by it. For the 30 percent of self-described moderate voters who oppose the movement, this independent streak could only help his campaign among that demographic. For the almost 50 percent of Republican voters who count themselves as supporters, this issue won’t prevent them from campaigning and voting for the only choice against four more years of Barack Obama, if Perry becomes the Republican nominee.