Is Rick Perry Too Extreme for Independents?

Two new polls on Wednesday put Texas Gov. Rick Perry comfortably in the lead for the GOP presidential nomination among Republican voters. His margin over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the former front runner, was a cushy 12 or 13 percentage points.

This has got to worry Gov. Romney’s advisers, who were counting on the “inevitability” strategy, much like Sen. Hillary Clinton pursued in her unsuccessful 2008 Democratic presidential campaign.

Gov. Perry gets overwhelmingly favorable ratings from Republican voters, and he has a natural message of “jobs, jobs, jobs,” based on Texas’s record of growing employment while he served as governor. That’s particularly appealing when unemployment is over 9% and President Obama has only a 26% approval rating for his handling of the economy.

But the GOP establishment is clearly worried. Karl Rove, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, and others are wringing their hands about whether Gov. Perry has broader appeal. GOP strategist Mike Murphy said on Meet the Press recently that Perry would be a “weak” general election candidate.

Gov. Rick Perry. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Why? Partly because the governor has taken some extreme stands on issues that could scare off independents:

This is quite a record—and note that every fact has been linked and verified. It reflects the most extreme views of both the Tea Party and the theocratic Christian right, who appear to be his most fervent supporters.

So, even if we accept that he’s the greatest job creator in human history (which is debatable), I doubt independents will be comfortable with such a hard-right candidate—unless the economy really tanks. Even George W. Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative” who worked well with Democrats.

No wonder big Republican donors are begging New Jersey governor Chris Christie to get into the race.

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