Politics & Government

Commentary: Perry Looks More Like the Chosen One

In the 2001 Texas version of the rapture, the best and brightest Republicans in the state Capitol were called up to join George W. Bush in Washington.

We all see which Republican was left behind.

Ten years and one dead coyote later, Gov. Rick Perry is on the verge of becoming the evangelical Christian favorite for president, partly because he's been left behind on that stage while other candidates departed or deflated.

Normally, Republicans wouldn't want a governor rejected by 49 percent of his own party in the last primary.

But with no evangelical candidate to rally turnout and a debate in conservative Iowa coming up Aug. 11, this is coming close to the political campaign end times.

The Rev. Laurence White of Houston, a Lutheran pastor, helps organize pastors nationwide for "restoration project" get-out-the-vote campaigns.

In a perfect world, he said, evangelicals would be counting on Fort Worth-trained minister Mike Huckabee to help turn out conservatives for primaries and precinct conventions.

Without Huckabee running, White said Perry can become the favorite "because we live in a less-than-perfect world."

The ministers and religious conservatives in White's e-mail network are waiting for a signal to begin a national "Draft Perry" movement, he said.

They'd like to start after the Texas Legislature adjourns May 30, White said.

And he reverently invoked the name of a former state governor.

"Ronald Reagan demonstrated that the people will respond to a candidate if they sense integrity and honesty," White said.

"Governor Perry speaks with integrity."

Outside Texas, Perry is not yet considered the answer to prayer.

Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver, dean of the Liberty University law school, said abortion opponents like Texas' new sonogram law. But when Perry shouts for "states' rights," Staver said, religious voters hear that he would let states regulate abortion.

Perry needs to meet more voters, Staver said. But he noted Perry's success with Hispanic voters: "That community is a critical component of this election, and he's reached out to Hispanics in Texas."

There's also Perry's 21st-century model of cell-group Facebook and Twitter campaigns, which clicked him to a landslide victory last year with few bumper stickers or yard signs.

White says his e-mail network is ready to go.

"If they see a positive response, I think we would see a 'Draft Perry' movement by pro-family and pro-life leaders across the country," he said.

The end is near.

(Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)

Twitter @budkennedy