When Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced his candidacy at the RedState gathering in Charleston, South Carolina on the weekend of the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, political pundits felt as if he would be the candidate that could best unite the Tea Party wing and the more business focused establishment wing of the Republican party.
After a brief surge to the top of the polls, Perry has united the Tea Party and the establishment wings against him.
His stumbles during three nationally televised debates gave the Republican establishment pause about whether he would be the best candidate to face President Barack Obama in a one-on-one match-up in a general election.
And when he said those who opposed giving in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants did not have “a heart,” he repelled Tea Party voters, who conversely found businessman Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” tax plan and outsider status appealing, and these voters left Perry for Cain, especially after Sarah Palin decided she would not enter the 2012 contest.
On Tuesday, Perry went back to South Carolina and took a first step in bringing back Tea Party voters, and some moderate voters who left him in recent months.
First, effectively using a post card as a prop, Perry unveiled his “Cut, Balance and Grow” economic plan that calls for an optional 20 percent flat tax and a 20 percent corporate tax. The plan would also cap spending at 18 percent of GDP.
“My plan does not trim around the edges,” Perry said. “It does not bow down to the established interests. … It is the kind of bold reform needed to jolt this economy out of its doldrums, and renew American prosperity … those who oppose it will wrap themselves in the cloak of the status quo.”
Perry contrasted his plan with Herman Cain’s by emphasizing that his plan did not introduce a new stream of revenue for the federal government in the form of a national sales tax.
Perry also got a golden opportunity to further attack Romney when the former Massachusetts Gov., according to a CNN report was non-committal about supporting an Ohio ballot measure that seeks to overturn legislation spearheaded by Ohio’s Republican Gov. John Kasich, which seeks to curb collective bargaining rights of government employees.
“I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney told CNN. “Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the efforts of the governor to reign in the scale of government. I am not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives. But I am certainly supportive of the Republican Party’s efforts here.”
Perry’s campaign pounced on Romney’s statement.
“Mitt Romney’s finger-in-the-wind politics continued today when he refused to support right-to-work reforms signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich – reforms Romney supported in June,” said Perry’s Communications Director Ray Sullivan. “Americans are tired of politicians who change their beliefs to match public opinion polls. Mitt Romney needs to realize that when you try to stand on both sides of an issue, you stand for nothing.”
In a campaign event in South Carolina later in the day, Perry said that he was still in the race and that race is not going to be called at halftime.
Perry’s trailing, but the GOP race is still volatile, and for Perry to get back into contention, he must present better ideas than Cain so that voters will come to trust Perry’s executive experience in government. The Texas Gov. must also further discredit Romney as a politician who stands solely to getting elected.
He took the first step in doing so on Tuesday.