The Perry campaign has a huge ad blitz under way in Iowa, aimed at the state’s influential evangelical/social conservative community. The campaign has spent some $2 million, according to the Associated Press. The spot was designed to be controversial. It stretches the facts on several points, and it is very aggressive in its attack on gays and on Obama, whom Perry accuses of conducting a “war on religion.” The rest is just a lot of pandering to the far right. (As always, he looks great on TV.) The AP did an analysis of the Perry ad, in which it said:
Struggling for traction in the Republican contest, Perry is gambling that the religious conservatives who typically dominate Iowa’s kickoff caucuses will warm to his candidacy if he appeals to them with a socially conservative message. He’s also drawing a contrast with rival Mitt Romney – whose Mormon faith gives many evangelicals pause – and Newt Gingrich, who recently converted to Catholicism but has been divorced twice and has acknowledged infidelity in his first two marriages. But this ad, which attacks President Barack Obama on gay rights and religion, is misleading and inaccurate. Perry’s suggestion that Obama has led the way in banning prayer in public school is factually wrong. The Supreme Court prohibited school prayer in two landmark decisions in 1962 and 1963, calling it an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. The court has repeatedly reaffirmed restrictions on religious expression in public schools, including a decision banning the posting of the Ten Commandments in school and another prohibiting students from using a school loudspeaker to offer a prayer before football games. Obama signed legislation earlier this year repealing the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited gays from serving openly in the military. The legislation was passed by both the House and Senate with the support of several Republicans, and had the backing of several high-ranking military officials including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While many religious conservatives may not support gay rights, it’s a stretch to characterize the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as an Obama “war on religion.”
I agree with the AP that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which was backed by the military brass at the highest level and has even won over some initial detractors, is hardly the equivalent of a presidential war on religion, especially since it had to pass Congress, which, as you may have noticed, can hardly agree on anything these days. But Perry has little choice except to woo the evangelical community. Opponents have shot his claims of Texas exceptionalism full of holes; they have charged him with crony capitalism; and they have found him squishy on the issue of immigration. This ad may gain him support among evangelicals, but it certainly isn’t selling to the general public. As of this post, the ad had 3,499 “likes” as opposed to 159,086 “dislikes.” And a new Time/CNN/ORC poll shows Perry running fourth in Iowa, with 9% of the vote.