Rick Perry Does the Texas Two-Step (Again)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a lot going for him as he nears what many believe will be a run for president. Texas has often been referred to as the anti-California, a state that has drawn businesses to it under Perry’s stewardship.

Further, Perry’s strong support of the 10th Amendment and states’ rights issues give him the requisite credibility with conservatives. His prayer events that he has sprinkled throughout the calendar can only endear him among Evangelicals. And as the longest serving governor of one of the nation’s most successful states and chair of the influential Republican Governors Association, Perry also appeals to the establishment wing of the GOP.

This is why political observers believe Perry can unite the insurgent and establishment wings of the GOP and give Republicans a united front as they battle the Obama re-elect juggernaut that awaits them.

Perry’s biggest challenge though, as he finalizes his strategy and plans, will be to figure out if he wants to be an establishment figure who appeals to conservatives or a conservative who appeals to the establishment.

How he is perceived may determine how successful a candidacy his will be.

Take the question of gay marriage, for instance.

In Aspen, Colorado last weekend, Perry said, in regards to the New York law that allows same-sex marriage: 

Our friends in New York  six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” Perry said.  “That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business

Yet, in an interview with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council that was released today, Perry immediately walked back those comments. Perry said:

I probably needed to add a few words after that ‘it’s fine with me,’ and that it’s fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed.

Perry continued by saying that his stance on traditional marraige has not changed and that he believes marriage is between one man and one woman. Perry said his record in Texas in defending traditional marriage was stong and pointed to his supporting the Texas Defense of Marriage Act, which was overwhelmingly adopted.

When confronted by Perkins with the astute observation that liberal states like New York could redfine marriage if citizens of New York are deemed to have their un-traditional marriages recognized in other states, such as Texas, because of the Constitution’s “full faith and credit clause,” Perry acknowledged that is why he would be for a federal marriage amendment just as he is for the Balanced Budged Amendment.

The point made by Perkins was that if states like New York could change the definition of marraige for Texas, then there really is not a strong 10th Amendment argument to be made.

Perry also stated that his comments reflected his “recognition that marriage and most issues of family have been historically been decided by people at states and local level and that is … the status of law under the Constitution.”

And in an interview with New Hampshire’s Union-Leader, Perry said, in regards to some who pick and choose when to adhere to the 10th Amendment, that “if you’re going to respect the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, you can’t go picking and choosing.”

Another example of Perry trying to walk the line between movement conservatives and the establishment is on immigration issues.

Here’s the Union-Leader account of Perry’s position on the Dream Act and S.B. 1070:

In the interview, Perry defended having signed the Texas DREAM Act, which allows children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities as long as they graduated from a Texas high school and are working toward attaining citizenship.

“I want those young, smart, in most cases, Hispanic, kids to stay in Texas and contribute to our society in a very positive and powerful way,” he said.

He opposes a Texas version of the controversial Arizona law that would make failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally because it “was going to turn law enforcement into federal agents.” But he supports Arizona’s right to pass its own law and filed an amicus brief to that effect with the U.S. Supreme Court, which blocked the law’s implementation.

Perry’s answer on S.B. 1070 was savvy; his past support of the DREAM Act may endear him among those in the Republican establishment but may cause him trouble among conservatives who dominate the early primaries.