Archives: Perry needs to go after Obama, not GOP rivals

Originally published in September 2011
Simon Nguyen

After a perfect start in which Rick Perry gained front-runner status, the Texas governor’s presidential campaign is facing its biggest crisis yet. Following a string of poor debate performances, Perry is gradually losing favor with the GOP base. While the latest CNN poll still shows the Texan leading the GOP field with 28%, Perry has suffered big defeats in successive state straw polls. He has also had to endure attacks on his record as Texas governor, particularly his immigration policy. What can Rick Perry do to save his struggling campaign?

Rick Perry needs to do what most frontrunners usually do and that is to simply ignore his primary challengers. The Texas governor should instead focus his attacks on his democratic opponent, President Barack Obama. Republicans may be divided on many issues, but making Obama a one-term president remains the ultimate goal. The more Perry goes after the president on the economy and national security the better his political standing will be. Rick Perry’s recent criticism of Barack Obama’s handling of the Israel-Palestine situation did make a splash with conservatives. He will need to expand his criticism to other issues as well.

Debating is clearly Rick Perry’s Achilles heel in the campaign to this point. Throughout his political career, the governor of Texas has never been known as a great debater. This weakness was magnified in Perry’s three debate appearances, where he fumbled badly in addressing the issues of illegal immigration and social security. While the Texas governor won’t become a great debater overnight, he may be able to mitigate this communication weakness by following the example of fellow Republican candidate Gary Johnson.

In the Fox/Google debate, the former New Mexico governor gained some attraction by mercilessly going after the administration on more than one occasion. Rick Perry should make an effort to incorporate President Obama into a majority of his debate responses. The president is a big buzz word in Republican presidential debates. Any criticism of President Obama or his administration’s policies usually generates a strong positive response from the partisan crowd. This tactic will allow Perry to deflect some of his rivals’ attacks.

Moreover, Rick Perry should also use his debate responses to contrast his political positions with those of Barack Obama. When contrasted with the president’s positions, even Perry’s seemingly liberal stance on immigration will be viewed less unfavorably by the conservative base.

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