Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s conservative blogger, published her advice on Friday for Governor Rick Perry, should he choose to enter the presidential race in 2016. Here’s what Rubin had to say:
What does Perry need to do?
1. It’s fine to mock his “oops” moment at the debate in 2012, but his main goal should be in projecting a serious national image.
2. Remarkably, few Republicans are talking about energy; he’d do well to set out a specific energy policy and travel around the country promoting it.
3. Perry has time to prepare the detailed policy proposals that were missing in 2016. He has a higher bar to cross than some other candidates on policy ideas so he’d be wise to devote significant time to it while the national spotlight is elsewhere. On foreign policy, he should build on his sound instincts and show some finesse, in contrast to the immature isolationism of others on the right.
4. Make the case he was right about a lot of things in 2012 — a more flexible approach to immigration reform, an understanding of what a menace the Environmental Protection Agency has become, a state’s rights approach to gay marriage and the need for pro-business policies that are far more successful than President Obama’s.
5. Practice debating. It is not the whole ball of wax, but he’ll have to surprise people with greatly improved performances.
6. Get a top-flight campaign staff with national experience. In 2012 his team was not ready for prime time; he can’t afford that in 2016.
7. Be the adult candidate for the right-wing base. Understanding that tea partyers have suspicions about many of the top tier candidates and that characters like Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) are hardly ready for prime time, Perry can aim to be the plausible candidate of the right.
8. Forget the gimmicks. Put aside ideas like a part-time Congress and repealing various Constitutional amendments. There is no need to defend every idea that popped into his head or made it into a book years ago.
9. Use his wife and family. These days candidates run as a team, and he should rely on his wife to soften his image.
10. His promotion of bans on late-term abortions is a plus in the primaries and even in the general election. He should be the effective pro-life candidate ready to propose doable measures that would focus on the last prong of Bill Clinton’s approach to abortion (“safe, legal and rare“).
* * * * *
I think the first point is where Perry has to start. He did not project a serious national image in 2012. He didn’t spend enough time on debate preparation and it showed. He hadn’t done his homework on issues. He still comes across as a swaggering Texan, which is not a popular image. He is going to learn how to act presidential. That was his greatest failing in 2012. He never came close.
Perry should pick out three areas and hit them hard. One is immigration reform. He understands it, and he runs very well — around 40% — with Hispanics in Texas. Another is the environment. Texas has repeatedly sued the Environmental Protection Agency, with some success. There is a big national constituency for taking on the EPA. The third is “bidness.” Perry understands what the needs of the economy are: water, power, and transportation.
The biggest problem Perry has is a lack of gravitas. He did not fulfill Rubin’s step #1, to project a serious national image. Many of his ideas lag behind the times. Gay marriage is an example. It’s hard to imagine Perry supporting gay marriage in Texas, but he is going to find himself isolated if he doesn’t keep up with the changes that are occurring in America. That said, I don’t really think Perry has much of a chance to be elected president. People aren’t going to forget about “oops!” But the competition may not be ready for prime-time either.