It’s difficult to say which governor – Rick Perry of Texas or Scott Walker of Wisconsin – is having the worst week so far, not that anyone should be wasting a tear for either of them.
Walker’s efforts to destroy America’s valued system of public service – and public schools – have justifiably earned him a millionplus signatures on petitions dumped at the state Capitol in Madison, demanding his recall. And, Perry’s intemperate, illinformed and just plain wrong remarks continue to doom his presidential misadventure, creating ill will as far away as Turkey. The leaders of that country, a U.S. ally, objected strongly to Perry’s characterization, in a televised debate, that they were a bunch of “Islamic terrorists.”
Polls of South Carolina voters indicate Perry’s week will get even worse when that state’s primary results are counted Saturday night, and Perry, we can hope, finally will be removed from the national stage.
Of more longrange concern to Perry and of interest to the rest of us, meanwhile, is a new poll back home, showing his stature among Texas Republicans is in a nosedive, at least as far as his presidential pipedream is concerned. According to a new poll by Public Policy Polling, only 18 percent of Texas Republicans are still supporting Perry for president, putting him in third place in his home state behind Mitt Romney (24 percent) and Newt Gingrich (23 percent). In a oneonone matchup, Perry would trail Romney, 46 percent to 45 percent, a 27point plunge for Perry since a similar hypothetical matchup was polled in September. Some 39 percent of the Texas Republicans said the governor’s presidential campaign has created bad perceptions for the state.
I don’t know how much bearing these figures would have should Perry seek still another term as governor in 2014, but I can’t help but feel he finally has begun to wear out his welcome among some of the same Texas Republicans who have been keeping him in office all these years. I also can’t help but wonder what took them so long to realize—if, indeed, they do that the emperor’s wardrobe is very thin.
I mean, all the national (and international) embarrassment that Perry has heaped upon Texas during his presidential bid is minor compared to the damage he already had inflicted, as governor, upon the state. Just last spring Perry demanded a budget with deep budget cuts to public schools, health care and other critical state services while his administration continued to reward big campaign donors with state contracts and other special favors. He also insisted on keeping more than $6 billion of taxpayers’ money in the bank – money that could have been used to prevent many budget cuts to bolster his bragging points with the Tea Party and other right wing voters during his presidential race. The Perry reality in Texas is worse than the perception.
Unlike Wisconsin voters, Texans can’t recall their governor. But it is time for Texas to move forward and start seriously preparing to put Perry, as Republican voters in other states already are doing, in the rearview mirror come 2014.