We now know the name of the next president of the United States: Rick Perry. The range of poor choices facing Republicans – from the bland Mitt Romney to the polarising Michele Bachman – has been transformed by Perry’s announcement.
Predicting with confidence, so early in the race, why this Texan will win is hazardous, but here goes:
First, consider the man he will run against through November 2012. No president has been re-elected with an economy in such bad shape.
No president since Franklin Roosevelt – the greatest president the Democrats ever had – has been elected with unemployment higher at the close of his term than at the beginning.
The change mantra of the 2008 campaign will haunt Barack Obama. He has recently had to redefine “change” as a long-term goal, hardly the import of his soaring rhetoric three years ago. The uncomfortable reality, elided by his supporters, is that Obama has changed very little, either since 2008 or in his pre-presidential career.
In twelve years as an academic at the Harvard Law School he published nothing of consequence. His early fame came from a best-selling book about his absent father. His community organisation years in Chicago are nebulous, producing more myth than substantive achievement. His life-long struggle was not the civil rights movement. Rather, he survived, surprisingly intact, from the suffocating affection and molly-coddling of his white Kansan grandparents.
As has become clear to many, including his supporters, in recent weeks, Obama’s inexperience has compromised his execution of the office of president. He has never run anything of note. Not a city, not a state. Editing the Harvard Law Review hardly counts.
He is proving to be a mediocre politician. The obvious contrast is with the last great liberal hope, Bill Clinton, perhaps the most astute politician of his generation – compromised by his sexual preferences not his political instincts. And a governor of some success before becoming president.
Obama’s poor skills as a negotiator – exposed in the recent budget showdown with Congress, bemoaned most intensely by his own side – are a product of his zero-experience in an executive role.
The robust ego that compensated for the absence of an executive track-record – and which made him such a charismatic campaigner – has made Obama a meagre political dealmaker.
A record of achievement
Second, compare this biography – which Republicans will recite and relay with ever greater relish – with that of his challenger.
Governor Rick Perry has run Texas, America’s second largest state – the equivalent of Australia – since 2000. He is currently the second longest serving governor in the US, and the longest in Texan history.
Where other governors have presided over job losses during the Great Recession, he has claimed credit for making them. Texas has become a magnet for inward American migration. Californians – Californians! – are now moving there.
The issues at stake
Obama can match none of this. Contra-Perry, his executive record consists of a double-dip recession and the stagnation of the jobs market – both purchased at the price of an enormous stimulus.
And this is before we consider how a precipitate withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq and a stalled war in Libya will play with voters. Killing Osama bin Laden is becoming a distant memory.
Other Republican challengers can and will dwell on Obama’s record. Only Perry can really expose Obama’s executive failures by pointing to the success of his own. Change is coming to America – again, it will be wearing a Stetson.