Bush v. Perry

What the reelection campaigns of George W. Bush in 1998 and Rick Perry in 2010 say about presidential politics—and the state of the Republican party.

We haven’t heard much from George W. Bush in the nearly two years since his presidential term ended. In the weeks ahead, however, he will once again be making headlines. The forty-third president will begin a new phase of his public life when his memoir, Decision Points, is published on November 9. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans and Democrats continue the ten-year fight over the fate of the tax cuts passed during his first term and which party is to blame for the country’s ills during that decade.

If the polls are correct, Bush’s reemergence will occur exactly one week after Rick Perry, the man who succeeded Bush as governor, in December 2000, will win a historic third full term. Perry too has a book on the way, one that bears some relation to Bush’s. Whereas Decision Points will mark the beginning of Bush’s defense of his presidency and his attempts to expand executive powers during wartime, Perry will publish Fed Up, a manifesto against an overreaching federal government. But they may soon share something else in common: the experience of running for president.

Many people in Texas expect Perry to mount a national campaign in 2012, and that means his current race for reelection provides a preview of his strategy, just as Bush’s gubernatorial run in 1998 did for him. But the campaigns couldn’t feel more different. In 1998 the result was a foregone conclusion. Bush was regarded as a certain winner over Garry Mauro, the long-tenured but little-known state land commissioner. The only suspense in the race was whether Bush would go on to run for president in 2000. Bush worked to burnish his bipartisan credentials and reached out to groups traditionally overlooked by the party. Perry, on the other hand, is facing a tougher race in 2010; he has tacked far to the right on most issues and has spent

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