If a week is a year in politics, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been through a decade since he entered the race to be the GOP presidential nominee on Aug. 13. At first he was heralded as the great right hope of the Republican Party, but after missteps in debates and comments on hot-button issues-Social Security, immigration-he faltered in the polls. Perry is undeterred-the American people, he says, need his blend of straight talk, job-creation savvy, and hand-on-the-heart patriotism.
He took a break from his hectic campaign schedule last week to sit down with Lynn Sherr for an interview with PARADE magazine.
So, what happened to you in the early debates?
Rick Perry: "A debate is an eight-ring circus, and you have a minute to talk. Sometimes it can be hard to explain your position on a host of issues. I readily admit I'm not the slickest politician nor the smoothest debater."
Do you feel as if the other candidates have been ganging up on you in the debates?
RP: "When you come into the fray and you're leading in the polls, you're going to get attacked by everyone. I get it. I'm a big boy, and I know how to play that game. "
Your critics say you're not electable. Your response?
RP:"Well, I disregard that. Americans are looking for somebody to stand up and tell them the truth, and I have a record to back it up. Ultimately, if I can explain my heart, my jobs record, and my philosophy to Americans, I'm pretty confident that I'll win."
You're a very successful fund-raiser. But it's been reported that nearly half of the major donors during your governorship ended up receiving business contracts, political appointments, or tax breaks. The word that's been applied to you is "cronyism." How do you respond?
RP:"That's the same old, tired criticism which comes when people don't want to talk about the real issues, like how do we create jobs."
But is there any truth to it?
RP:"No. Decisions in Texas are generally legislative, with the lieutenant governor, speaker, and governor making them together. There were no unilateral decisions from my office dealing with those issues. And I'll go back to my record. I've been elected three times as governor. The people obviously have confidence in me."
Your wife, Anita Perry, tends to stay out of the spotlight. At the Sept. 12 debate, you described her as "beautiful, thoughtful, incredible." What is she like as a person?
RP:"She's very smart and loyal. She's not predisposed to be a public figure since she saw how her father, a small-town doctor, had to be shared with all these other people. She's also a great patriot. "
Some of our recent presidents have admitted to experimenting with drugs. What about you?
RP:"No, ma'am. Not unless you call caffeine a drug. Or cold beer or whiskey."
Governor, how would you make the White House more like Texas?
RP:We'd have Blue Bell ice cream and Hill Country barbecue.
Look for the full story in the Oct. 23 issue of PARADE.