From the looks of it, Rick Perry may be the Republican Party’s nominee for president. Despite calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme and a few remarkably bad decisions, Perry has skyrocket ed to the top of the primary polls, beating Romney by about 11 percent in most polls. In fact, the most surprising thing about Perry’s candidacy is that he is gaining any traction at all. Perry, as George W. Bush’s erstwhile Lieutenant Governor, can easily be painted as just one more Texas Governor or one more Bush trying to make it into the White House.
To make it to that coveted house, however, Perry has a few hurdles to overcome. In 2001, he supported the Trans-Texas Corridor, a $145 billion project that would have created a massive toll road through Texas. The road would have required extensive use of eminent domain laws and may have involved some back room deals with construction companies represented by Perry’s political allies. Since 2010, Perry has made no attempts to continue with the proposed project. Another contentious decision is the infamous executive order mandating the HPV vaccination for Texas girls. Perry has since admitted he made the wrong decision.
In both cases, Perry attempted to implement a policy, but failed due to opposition. While these attempts certainly seem to show bad judgment on Perry’s part, Perry is protected by a simple fact: both plans failed. In contrast, the average Republican primary voter is faced with Mitt Romney, who successfully implemented an Obamacare-like healthcare law in Massachusetts.
Perry’s biggest problem may be his attacks against Social Security. Having called it a “Ponzi scheme” in Wednesday’s debate, Perry may face the wrath of senior citizens. Only time will tell how the polls will treat Perry’s assertion. The party – and the nation – may be ready to hear that the popular social program needs to be massively revamped in order to keep it workable as the Baby Boomers retire. Perry can either walk back his comments, hope he wins the election, and be part of the continuing problem, or he can risk an electoral catastrophe while hoping his message resonates. His options are rather grim.
Finally, Perry’s close connections with George W. Bush make him vulnerable to being painted as Bush (or even Bush 3). Despite well-known disagreements between these two Texans, Perry comes across as a Bush protégé, a resemblance that turns many American voters off. For these voters, another Bush in the White House is simply not an option.
With these past mistakes, Perry has a hard road to travel to the White House. But so far, he has not failed to deliver. With his stellar appearance in the Republican debate, he eclipsed Romney and turned Bachmann into a nonentity. Despite this initial success, however, Perry still has many challenges to face. And the most significant of these – Social Security – may end up shaping not only his 2012 campaign, but also the future of the nation.