Perry Adviser: Secessionism Criticism Is Baseless

Perry Adviser: Secessionism Criticism Is Baseless

By Erin McPike - June 30, 2011

Critics of Rick Perry already have begun to drop into the political conversation two hurdles facing him should he launch a presidential bid this summer, but they don't pass muster with the Texas governor's chief political adviser, David Carney.

Ask a political strategist inside the Beltway to assess Perry's prospects for landing the GOP nomination -- or the presidency -- and a common response is: "He called for Texas to secede from the union, so he'll never be president," even though that's not quite true. The second thing you hear is: "I'm not sure America is ready for another Texas governor after George W. Bush."

Neither assertion may be paramount in the minds of voters, but whisper campaigns that begin in Washington have a way of casting a pall on candidacies before they get off the starting blocks. Just ask Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose unique marital history colored the zeitgeist of Washington this spring and ultimately stood between him and a run for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Asked how a Perry campaign would address the Texan's two potential headaches, Carney first took on the secession comment by pointing out: "He never actually said it." He added that his boss "understands the frustrations of the people in America. It's what makes Governor Perry so unique -- he understands what's going on in the real world, and that people in Washington don't get that spending and regulation are hugely frustrating to the rest of the country.

"He specifically said not to secede, even though people like to make fun of it, and the media and the left have run with it."

According to the Associated Press, what Perry actually said at a Tax Day rally in 2009 -- responding to those in the Austin crowd who were chanting for secession -- was this: "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."

Carney pointed out that Texas boasts more total military service by its residents than any other state in the nation, so it's unusual that sympathy for secession is palpable there, but he also noted that there's much anger in Texas over the "arrogance" in Washington, and Perry feels that, too.

Nevertheless, tying Perry to secession is certain to be a tactic that some of his rivals would use. But as Carney put it, "These are the kinds of distractions that have people in the country fed up with politics." And if he runs, Carney said, "the governor's going to trump that."

As for Perry's Texas roots, and whether that would be a problem for him so soon after Bush's two terms, Carney scoffed. "Voters just want someone who will fight for them and their families," he said. And to the rumors that Perry and Bush aren't close, Carney called such commentary a "mythical beast," saying, "They do get along and have a relationship."

"Is he a perfect person? No," Carney later observed, adding that while Perry may have his detractors, he's bold and puts forth bold ideas, and that's an attractive quality for a leader to have.

"He's pushed for ideas that voters don't want, and then he's later dropped them" after those ideas have cycled through. "That's the point when you're a leader," Carney said. "You have ideas and you try to move forward with them, but you don't ramrod them through if they ultimately don't have support."

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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