A pro-Rick Perry group is taking advantage of a new rule in the Iowa straw poll that allows voters to write in a candidate. GrowPAC will air radio ads in Iowa urging voters to write in Perry’s name in the Ames straw poll next month. The move would–if the ad works–help Perry in two ways: it would reveal public support for Perry without having to meet expectations, as he would if his name were officially on the ballot, and it will drain support from Perry’s conservative rivals.
It’s a smart strategy that won’t cost Perry a dime. In a second bit of good news for the Texas governor, a new poll of Republican primary voters in Florida has Perry leading all candidates. It was the first time Perry’s name was included in the poll, so it’s difficult to determine whether this represents a surge in popularity for Perry or simply an expression of support that has been there all along.
The poll is actually better for Perry than at first glance. Overall, Perry garners 16 percent, with Romney and Bachmann tied at 15 percent. But Sarah Palin is included in the poll, and she gets 13 percent–a not insignificant number in a poll this close. If Palin does not run, her support would be up for grabs, and could easily put both Perry and Bachmann ahead of Romney.
This is not bad news for Romney yet, however. As I wrote here, Romney leads the “Not Bachmann” coalition by a mile, consolidating support from party elites and business leaders. Ramesh Ponnuru has a good article up at National Review’s website making a similar argument, though he adds one note of caution about Perry: “He would be running to the right of anyone who has won the nomination in the last 26 years.”
The argument that Perry is too conservative to win the Republican nomination is an interesting one. Most of the criticism of Perry’s conservatism has focused on whether he is a viable general election candidate, not whether he’s too conservative for Republicans. I think Perry has already begun to mitigate this supposed weakness. He has been focusing his campaign on states’ rights, and even angered some social conservatives recently with his comments about New York’s new gay marriage law: “That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.” As Don Rasmussen points out at the Daily Caller, Perry has been consistent about this. “Whether it’s gay marriage, medical marijuana, education or a host of other issues, Perry’s strong stance on the 10th Amendment allows him to have his cake and eat it too.”
That will partially allay concerns a Perry presidency would impose his views on the country as a whole. Something else that might make Perry’s conservatism less rattling is today’s USA Today front-page story: “Need a Job? Move to Texas.” The article details the state’s job growth under Perry’s governorship:
From June 2009 to June 2011 the state added 262,000 jobs, or half the USA’s 524,000 payroll gains, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even by a more conservative estimate that omits states with net job losses, Texas’ advances make up 30 percent of the 1 million additions in the 34 states with net growth.
If Perry can successfully make his case on states’ rights and job creation, he may be able to peel off enough elite support to beat Romney. So far, voters seem to like it.