Doubts About PERRY Echo Those Faced by REAGAN – WSJ.com
Doubts About Perry Echo Those Faced by Reagan
By GERALD F. SEIB
It was appropriate that the first Republican presidential debate in which Rick Perry appeared was at Ronald Reagan’s presidential library last week, for it is the Reagan precedent that offers the greatest hope for the Texas governor’s presidential bid.
The rap on Rick Perry is that he’s too ideologically extreme to be elected in a general election, precisely the same rap that Ronald Reagan faced in 1980. Could Perry be another Reagan? Jerry Seib looks at the similarities on The News Hub.
As the candidates gathered Monday night in Florida for a debate staged by tea-party activists, there was little doubt Gov. Perry has become the front-runner, as seen in the way other candidates focused their jabs at him. A national poll by debate co-sponsor CNN showed him leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 32% to 21%. Yet the question that nags Republicans about Mr. Perry is a simple one: Is he too ideological, too conservative or too extreme to win a general election?
As it happens, that is the same question that dogged Ronald Reagan in 1980, right up until he won a smashing general-election victory over President Jimmy Carter. So maybe the real question is whether Rick Perry could be another Ronald Reagan.
Some similarities are striking. Then, as now, Republicans were facing a race against an incumbent wrestling with severe economic problems (inflation then, joblessness now). Then, as now, a safer and more moderate establishment choice was an early favorite. Then, it was George H.W. Bush; now, Mr. Romney plays that role.
But the candidate who excited conservatives was Mr. Reagan, the former California governor, in much the way Mr. Perry gets conservative juices flowing. Mr. Reagan, like Mr. Perry, had a long record running one of the nation’s largest states, and he brought to the campaign the same kind of disdain for Washington’s established ways. He famously declared that government wasn’t the solution to the nation’s economic problems, but rather the problem. He said energy shortages were caused by government interference with the oil industry.