It's only Day Three of Rick Perry's official entrance into the presidential race, and it already feels like we've been reading about him for months. That's because we have! But still, despite the blanket coverage of his prayer breakfast, his economic record, and his similarity (or not) to George W. Bush, there are a few things about Perry that might have escaped your notice.
1) He used to be a Democrat. But according to Texas politics éminence grise Paul Burka, that's not actually much of a gotcha factoid.
When Perry was elected to the statehouse, in 1985, conservative Democrats ran the Legislature. In 1989, realizing that a conservative had little future in the party, Perry switched to the GOP. He has been a rock-solid Republican ever since and has driven the state party further to the right. Only twice has he made strategic errors that brought him into conflict with his hard-right base. ... Perry has a genius for sensing where his base is on any given issue.
2) He lives out his support for the Second Amendment. Last year, while jogging, he shot and killed a coyote that "menaced" his dog using a laser pistol he happened to be carrying. Just today, Perry joked (we think?) with Politico's Ben Smith about whether he was packing heat at the Iowa State Fair, saying "I never comment on whether I'm carrying a handgun or not. That's why it's called concealed." As Smith points out, that's part of the macho persona that he's cultivating pretty explicitly, as the red-meat, real man candidate who says charming little things like, "This shirt has a few wrinkles in it, it's not my wife's fault." But unlike Republican pols who manufacture a certain man-of-the-people vibe, Perry really is from a dirt-poor, hardscrabble, rural background.
3) However, while Perry might not be a trust-funder like W., at least once or twice, he was sort of like the poor kid who ended up living large thanks to a wealthy roommate. According to John Sharp, who lost the 1998 lieutenant governor race, Perry got a few hand-me-down silver spoons from his gubernatorial predecessor.
In 1998 Governor Bush told Bob Bullock he was going to stay out of our lieutenant governor’s race, according to Bullock. Then Bush realized that he could not run for president if it meant leaving office would elevate a Democrat to governor. So he was forced to get involved, and his parents ran ads for Perry.
Perry also, of course, doesn't have much of a problem raising his own money these days — his deep coffers were a factor in all of his Texas races, and will be one of his most important advantages in this national race.
4) He thinks a whole lot of things are unconstitutional. Matt Yglesias, who read Perry's 2010 book, Fed Up, reports that bank regulation, consumer financial protection, federal education policy, and the wide application of the Commerce Clause are all unconstitutional, according to Perry. Also, he links the Civil War to the creeping problem of federalism.
5) His hair, despite the raffish swoop and the "Governor Goodhair" tag it earned him, is jealous of Mitt Romney's hair. Trust us.
Dear Yankee [Texas Monthly]
Earlier: Would Rumors About His Marriage Haunt a Rick Perry Run?
Was Perry packing? [Politico]
The Great Campaigner [Texas Monthly]