MACKINAC ISLAND, MICH.—Even the Michigan Republicans who were supporting presidential candidates other than Rick Perry—and most of them who spoke to HUMAN EVENTS clearly were—nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed the Texas governor and his remarks at the luncheon of the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday.
“Our best days are ahead of us,” Perry told an overflow crowd of cheering Republicans here at the Grand Hotel. Sounding a positive note, he declared that “nothing is ailing America that the rebirth of freedom won’t cure” and, paraphrasing John Kennedy’s 1960 campaign slogan, he vowed to “get America working again.”
Perry also drew wild cheers with his promises not to be “a nominee that will blur the lines between Barack Obama,” and that on his first day as President, “I will repeal as much of ObamaCare as I can with that pen.”
“He certainly was impressive, all right,” Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson told us shortly after Perry’s remarks, emphasizing that “as the state’s chief elections officer, I feel I should remain neutral in the presidential race.”
Perry was mobbed by fans and picture-seekers after his remarks and at a private reception hosted by the state Republican Party, where he met many state elected officials. To a person, the officials I spoke to liked him and his message.
But almost to a person, the same party leaders not only prefer Mitt Romney, but have reservations about a ticket led by Perry putting Michigan’s electoral votes in the Republican column this fall.
“Gov. Perry certainly said the right things today,” Paul Welday, former Oakland County Republican chairman, told HUMAN EVENTS after the luncheon today, “but I think that, fairly or unfairly, he reminds people of George W. [Bush], and that is a real problem—at least in Michigan.”
Welday, who got his political start with the late conservative hero and Rep. Jack Kemp (R.-N.Y.), recalled how Oakland, the largest Republican County in the Wolverine State, went for Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry in the 2000 and ’04 presidential race.
“We had a problem selling W., whom I admired and think will be vindicated by history,” said Welday, “and, at least in suburban counties like Oakland or Bucks County, Pennsylvania, it is too soon to nominate another Texas governor for President.”
Like most of the participants at the Mackinac conference, Welday is for Mitt Romney. He described the Michigan-born former governor of Massachusetts as “the closest thing we will have to a President from Michigan” and a “vested, tested commodity.”
Overall, Rick Perry made an excellent impression in Michigan on Saturday and no doubt earned new friends and admirers. Whether that translates into support against Romney in the primary next year, however, is very questionable.