Despite having not yet announced his candidacy, many are seemingly already considering Texas Gov. Rick Perry as the man with the best chance to defeat President Barack Obama in 2012.
It is clear that Republicans, conservatives, Tea Partiers -- whatever you want to call them -- have two homologous fixations: For someone -- anyone -- to stand out above the other GOP candidates, as it appears that not one candidate seems to be both the frontrunner and the ideal choice. And for that someone, that anyone, if they become the one, to, stealing U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's words, grant Obama the "one-term President" status.
Perry, the governor of the Lone Star state, has made quite the habit of winning. With three consecutive victories in Texas, he is America's longest-serving governor. His most recent primary, versus the popular U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010, wasn't expected to be a landslide, but it was.
His rise to national prominence affords him the very desirable position of not having to run unless he is (almost) certain he can win. Being a ruthlessly effective campaigner and an unapologetic social conservative appear to work in his favor, clearly.
Putting aside, momentarily, the chance of Perry beating Obama, one thing seems to be evident: If he makes a run, the Republican nomination is his for the taking.
"There is no competition. The field's slack," said Mike Toomey, a prominent Texas lobbyist and former adviser to Perry. "He has been a job-creating machine and everyone knows it."
Perry's credentials with the religious right seem pretty solid, too. On Saturday, he will host a day-long prayer rally at Houston's Reliant Stadium. Perry, a Christian, has said that he is being "called" to run for the presidency. This sounds good to the God-fearing demographic.
But if we separate the religious element from the political one -- as Americans are allegedly wont to do -- Perry's political achievements still seem up to snuff, at least where the economy and unemployment are concerned, for job security is what the American people care about most at the moment.
Under his stewardship, Perry has created more jobs than any other state in the country in recent years. The Dallas Federal Reserve estimated that all of the jobs created in the country in the two years from April 2009, a low of 37 percent (2009) to high off 48 percent (recently) were created in Texas.
Plans to Focus on Economy, Jobs
Describing himself as a fiscal conservative, this, if he decides to run, will be the foundation for his campaign.
"If he runs, he would be focused on the economy," said his longtime campaign manager, David Carney. "Whether people like his views on faith is irrelevant."
The other side of the coin is that his cuts to school funding have left Texas 50th out of 50 states in spending per student on education.
Nevertheless, the question seems to be: Is he too conservative for the rest of the country? After all, he is in charge of one of the reddest of Republican red states. In comparison to the rest of America, Texas is thriving. It is the second most-populous state after California, and continually growing. And the dangling carrot for newcomers is the absence of state income and capital-gains taxes, cheap housing and, compared to the rest of the country, a steady stream of jobs.
Perry also supplies substance-starved citizens with a deep-rooted belief system. From the surface, his deepest views have not changed much since his early days in a cotton-farming community in Paint Creek, Texas in the 1950s.
"We believed in God, we believed in taking care of ourselves and one another, and we believed that America was the greatest nation on earth," he wrote in the preface to "Fed Up," the book he wrote last year.
His strong suit, however, is that he might not even need to depend on the Christian vote.
Typically, candidates cater to their fan base in the primaries, turning more neutral once securing the nomination and heading into the general election.
"I find it very hard to imagine him running back towards the middles -- it is not in his temperament," said James Henson, of the Univeristy of Texas. "But with high unemployment, maybe he won't need to."
But Perry might appeal to Republicans in a way his competitors don't. He is not the wishy-washy Conservative. There are other ferocious pro-life, gun-toting, anti-gay marriage social conservatives in the running, The Economist reported. But religion seems to be a larger factor for Michele Bachmann, who's legislative record pales in comparison. And the other Republican candidates resemble, sort of, liberals, by Texan standards. Mitt Romney, of course, helped pass a universal health care program in Massachusetts that in some ways is more liberal than Obama's health care reform act, and Jon Hunstman believes in global warming and the theory of evolution.
Even if he joins late, a social and fiscal conservative, intermingled with Perry's panache, might just culminate in a formidable contender. Whether he can beat Obama, well, that's something else entirely. And, yes, he can tout quite a successful record of creating jobs, while the President has mostly disappointed in this respect. On the flip side, more-intense national security will spotlight an underfunded school system and an inadequate safety net. One thing, however, is certain: Obama vs. Perry would profer a galvanizing choice -- diametrically opposing views of America's future.