Rick Perry’s Second Act

BY David Chalian  October 14, 2011 at 8:21 AM EDT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry; photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
File photo of Texas Gov. Rick Perry by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

The Morning Line

Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, is set to begin his second act as a presidential contender Friday. After weeks of panned debate performances, plummeting poll numbers, and a controversy over Mitt Romney’s religion injected into the campaign by a Perry supporter, the Texas governor plans to give his first major policy speech.

At a steel mill in Pittsburgh Friday morning, Perry will lay out his plan to expand domestic energy production in order to jump start job growth.

“What I am proposing today is the first part of an economic growth package that will rebuild the engine of American prosperity. The plan I present this morning -
Energizing American Jobs and Security – will kick-start economic growth and 1.2 million American jobs. It can be implemented quicker and free of Washington gridlock because most of it does not require congressional action. Through a series of executive orders and other executive actions we will begin the process of creating jobs soon after the inauguration of a new president,” Perry plans to say according to excerpts of his remarks provided to Politico’s “Morning Score.”

Perry said this morning that those 1.2 million jobs will be created by opening up federal lands and waters to energy exploration and production, by pulling back those onerous regulations, and by remaking the Environmental Protection Agency.

He also previewed his speech in an interview with USA Today’s Susan Page.

In addition, Perry sat for a series of national television interviews Friday morning to preview his plan, but also seemingly to try to clear away the cobwebs of his tough last month on the trail.

Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” show asked Perry about his wife’s comments at a prayer breakfast in South Carolina Thursday where she said he has been “brutalized” by the media.

“Family members always take these campaigns a little more personally than the candidates do. I’ve been shot at and missed and shot at and hit for 20 years running for public office. Being the Chief Executive Officer of the state of Texas, we have our ups and downs. But the fact is those are just distractions,” Perry responded.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” George Stephanopoulos asked him if he would do as Mitt Romney has asked and repudiate Pastor Jeffress’ comments last week calling Mormonism a cult. (Perry has already publicly said he disagreed with that characterization.)

“I have a lot of people that endorse me, but I don’t endorse what they say or what they believe for that matter and that’s the case on this one. I can’t control those individuals who go out and say something who may be for me in a race. This is about freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” Perry said.

“I’m not going to say that he can’t say what he wants to say,” he added.

Perry also was given the opportunity to take a shot at Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax overhaul plan.

“When you look at the 9 percent increase in states that already have a sales tax, then you are really going to see some pushback from people. I think once this really gets looked at – it sounds pretty cool to just say 9-9-9 – but at the end of the day it is a big tax increase on some people out there that vote, that care and I think it’s going to be tough sledding for 9-9-9,” Perry said.

The Perry campaign obviously knew they would get all of these questions and wisely chose to have the candidate sit and take them on a day when he would have a message of his own (his energy piece of his jobs plan) to push throughout the interviews.

The policy speech Friday is likely to be followed by the beginning of a multi-million dollar television advertising campaign set to begin soon. Downplaying his participation in debates (as he clearly tried to do this week at Dartmouth) and stepping up his message delivery in more controlled settings like policy speeches and potentially high impact television ads is the start of a new phase of Rick Perry’s campaign. He and his team are attempting to turn a corner. What remains unclear is whether or not there is enough road ahead of him to capture back all the support he lost over the last several weeks.

MAINTAINING ORDER

Jon Huntsman may not be leading in the polls, but the former Utah governor Thursday became the first Republican presidential contender to declare his intention of boycotting the Nevada caucuses if the state does not push back the date of its contest in order to allow New Hampshire to schedule its primary in the 2012 calendar year.

Huntsman’s move came after New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner threatened Wednesday to move the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary to December if the Silver State does not back away from the January 14, 2012 date it has set for its caucuses. As we mentioned in this space Thursday, New Hampshire law requires Gardner to set the state’s primary at least seven days prior to another nominating contest.

“In an effort to preserve New Hampshire’s historic first-in-the-nation primary status, the Huntsman campaign will boycott the Nevada caucus as long as the state continues to jeopardize New Hampshire’s primary date,” Huntsman campaign manager Matt David said in a statement. “We call on the other campaigns to join us, especially Governor Romney’s campaign given their involvement in moving Nevada’s date forward.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also joined in the Nevada boycott effort.

“As a citizen, I have always supported New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Primary,” Gingrich said in a statement. “Now, as a candidate for president, I am committed to competing in and maintaining the first in the nation status of the New Hampshire primary.”

“Nevada’s move has potentially forced the other early states to have primaries near Christmas – and that destroys the primary process,” Santorum said Thursday. “To be clear, I will not campaign in Nevada nor participate in the Nevada caucus if it doesn’t move its primary date.”

Like Huntsman, Santorum also called out Romney, citing reports that the former Massachusetts governor had pushed officials in Nevada to move up the date of its caucuses.

After winning the Nevada caucuses in 2008 with 51 percent of the vote, Romney is expected to perform well there this time around, thanks in part to the state’s sizable Mormon population.

For its part, the Romney campaign has not embraced the Nevada boycott. “Governor Romney is competing in every other nominating contest across the country — whenever they are scheduled,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said Thursday, according to Nevada politics guru Jon Ralston. “It is up to each state to determine the date of their primary or caucus, and Gov. Romney has consistently supported Nevada’s status as an early nominating contest that follows New Hampshire,” Williams added.

Other campaigns are trying to walk a fine line with the New Hampshire-Nevada issue. Ron Paul’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, said the Texas congressman embraces New Hampshire’s “special place in American politics,” but added that “talk of boycotts doesn’t serve the electoral process any more than the states’ jockeying for position and primacy.”

The Perry and Bachmann campaigns also voiced support for New Hampshire’s primary status, but neither said they would back the boycott effort.

For those who have endorsed the boycott, Huntsman especially, the move makes sense, since there is likely not a path forward to the nomination that does not include notching a victory in the Granite State.

GOING NOWHERE FAST

Senate Republicans unveiled their jobs plan Thursday, a proposal that, like the rest of the proposals out there, stands very little chance of becoming law.

NewsHour producer Linda J. Scott reports:

“At at afternoon news conference in the U.S. Capitol, 12 senators, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said their legislation would serve as a blueprint to create jobs through growing the economy and not through government spending, as they say President Obama’s job plan does.

‘In all due respect to the president, we’ve seen that movie before,’ said McCain.”

The Senate GOP proposal includes lowering the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, implementing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, and putting a stop to new government regulations until the unemployment rate drops to 7.7 percent.

Democrats immediately rejected the bill, and with the party in control of the White House and the Senate, the GOP plan is more a political retort to the president and his jobs bill than it is a potential avenue for broad compromise.

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama travels to Detroit with President Lee of South Korea. The leaders will tour a General Motors facility in Orion at 1:30 p.m. and deliver remarks on the trade agreement between the two countries at 1:50 p.m.

  • Rick Perry unveils his energy plan in West Mifflin, Pa., at 10:30 am.

  • Jon Huntsman holds a pair of New Hampshire town halls, the first at Lincoln Financial in Concord, N.H., at 10:30 a.m., and later at the law offices of Sheehan, Phinney, Bass & Green in Manchester at 2 p.m.

  • Michele Bachmann holds a town hall in Sioux Center, Iowa, at 1 p.m., a second in Rock Rapids at 3:30 p.m., and a third in Estherville at 7 p.m.

All future campaign events can be found on our Political Calendar.

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