Opinion: Ticket Notebook: What makes Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry tick?

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Our print politics buddy here at The Times recently spent some time down in Texas, studying the brewing intra-party primary struggle between incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry and incumbent Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who would like to become the incumbent governor. His news story is over here.

But we asked Mark to give us some political blog background on Perry as a veteran observer of the national scene. This item is actually the second of two from him. The first one appeared on The Ticket yesterday right here.


Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry insists he has no desire to follow his predecessor’s path to Washington, which may be a moot point if Perry fails to beat back a March primary challenge from one of his own, Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

So perhaps Perry won’t mind so much the comparison to George W. Bush who, it seems fair to say, hasn’t exactly created a boom market for Texas governors seeking the White House.

Come to think of it, it was a generation between Lyndon Baines Johnson’s turbulent single elected term and the next Texan White House CEO, Bush I.

Like Bush -- and, for that matter, Ronald Reagan -- Perry has a reputation as a politician who’s a bit lazy and not all that bright. Like Bush and Reagan, he can afford to laugh off the insult because of his success; in 25 years, Perry has never lost an election.

Unlike Bush (Greenwich Country Day, Yale, Harvard) Perry came naturally to his West Texas twang. He grew up in tiny Paint Creek, with his parents and an older sister, on farmland first plowed by his great-great-grandfather. He graduated from Texas A&M University and served in the Air Force before returning to the farm.

In 1978, in the midst of an awful drought, he was ready to leave; Perry even landed.... interview for a pilot’s job with Southwest Airlines. Then the clouds burst -- 30 inches in 24 hours -- and Perry stayed put.

In December 1983, there was another bit of weather-related good fortune. A freeze broke just in time for Perry to get to town and learn of an opening in the state Legislature. He beat the filing deadline by three days and, on a whim, launched his political career.

The 59-year-old Perry recently sat down for a 45-minute interview in a hotel boardroom high above Houston, his legs stretched out and a bottle of water on the table before him. He had the following to say:

On seeking an unprecedented third term in Austin: ‘You’re real good at what you do. You are very happy doing it. You’re young, you’re healthy. You’re making a difference. So why wouldn’t you?”

On President Obama, whose domestic policies Perry vigorously opposes: “I think he is interesting and a person that people intuitively like…. His personification as a father and as a human being I think people like.... I think people who attack him are doing so at their own peril, attacking him personally.’

On Texas as a model for the national Republican Party: “Keep the taxes low. Don’t spend all the money. Have a regulatory climate that is fair and balanced... That’s the blueprint. It works.... If you went out across the country and asked people what is the thing that most reflects the Republican philosophy -- this is not scientific -- but my instinct is they’re gonna say being a fiscal conservative. If you don’t have that, you may lose a lot of people from your ranks.”

On Texas seceding from the union: “I’m not in favor of Texas seceding. I’ve said that. But, you know, in the future, if the federal government continues to thumb its nose at the states, who knows what may happen.

‘There may be a great movement of attorney generals across this nation who say, ‘Hey, Washington, we’re gonna sue you over the 10th amendment. So let’s go to the courthouse and find out whether or not you really can force us to do business.’ ‘

-- Mark Z. Barabak

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