The race for the 2012 GOP nomination is looking a little less like a Mitt Romney cakewalk this week: Not only will Jon Huntsman officially throw his hat in the ring this week for what some observers think could be a very serious run at the nomination, but Texas governor Rick Perry gave a speech at the Republican Leadership Conference this weekend that looked a whole lot like a stump speech — and one that would appeal to social conservatives, a group that doesn't have a clear, strong candidate to back among Republicans currently running. After lines like “We need to stop apologizing for celebrating life," Perry walked offstage to cries of "Run, Rick, run," and was reportedly even more of a conference darling than Michele Bachmann.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the governor will only declare a candidacy if he thinks the investment of time and energy would actually pay off in a nomination: He's tasked aides with figuring out whether there's enough time left to raise the amount of cash a serious run would require and has tested the waters a bit in Iowa. Unlike Sarah Palin's prolonged fan dance, Perry's careful consideration mirrors the fiscal prudence which, along with his successful record of job creation as governor (which John Heilemann examines in the magazine this week), would be one of his chief selling points as a candidate.
His speech also didn't just nod to social conservatives, it also showed him to be fluent in tea party-ese. According to Politico, Perry offered "a robust defense of the 10th Amendment, repeatedly invoking of the founding fathers and launching an assault on what he portrayed as an ever more menacing federal government." That all makes him an attractive alternative to Bachmann for voters who want a Republican who not only shares their values, but might actually be electable.
As an aide told Politico, "He’s not going to pussy-foot around.” And there's his first bumper sticker.