Commentary: Rick Perry, Ron Paul and a tea party

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramAugust 27, 2011 

So much for that predicted epidemic of "Texan fatigue."

Gov. Rick Perry leads by double digits in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, according to one poll due today. But that's not the most surprising news.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has tripled his support in Iowa since the 2008 election and has pulled into contention nationally alongside Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, based on the Iowa straw poll and a new Gallup Poll.

According to Gallup, either Perry or Paul would finish in a virtual tie with President Barack Obama today on an imaginary presidential ballot, and Paul draws more Democratic and independent support than Perry or Bachmann.

Paul, a Lake Jackson obstetrician, former Libertarian candidate and favorite of some Tea Party groups, has already joked to crowds that Perry's early Texas tough talk "makes me sound like a moderate."

Wharton Republican Debra Medina, a Paul campaigner and 2010 Perry opponent, said the governor's early speeches reminded her of the "blustery day" in a windblown Winnie the Pooh cartoon.

"What Rick Perry says and what he does are completely unrelated," she said by phone from Wharton.

"It's not his rhetoric that gets him in trouble, it's his record. He never does what he says. And when he talks about smaller government and stabilizing the economy -- that's what Ron Paul has talked about all along."

Paul's supporters organized the first Tea ("Taxed Enough Already") Party rallies here in 2009, before Perry campaigners and Republican organizers co-opted the name at Tax Day rallies. Their books even have echoing titles: Fed Up! (Perry) and End the Fed (Paul).

Jerry Polinard, a political science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American, said Paul is "very attractive" to a party shifting rightward.

"Right now, they see Paul as a pure conservative, but they think Perry might be both ideologically pure and electable," he said. "Perry can't be the most right-wing candidate in the race. That's Ron Paul. But all Perry has to say is that he's the most right-wing candidate who can beat Obama."

The two will meet -- for the first time, Paul has said -- at a campaign forum Sept. 5 in South Carolina.

They might split the Tea.

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