Texas Governor Rick Perry has joined the presidential race. His spokesman affirmed on Thursday that he plans to run and will make a formal announcement in his speech to the Red State convention in Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday. Perry has become a rock star in many conservative circles. Leading conservative pundits such as Rush Limabugh and William Kristol publicly asked him to run. Despite his mediocre approval ratings, national conservatives credit Perry with governing Texas as a right-wing mecca: low taxes, few regulations to protect the environment, no mass transit, a bare bones social safety net, with guns and executions aplenty. (They also wrongly believe, a misconception Perry actively encourages, that Texas has experienced unusually strong economic growth and that this is attributable to Perry’s policies. As Brad Plumer demonstrated in The New Republic, neither claim withstands scrutiny.)
With his timely jump on the Tea Party bandwagon, his ostentatious religiosity and his ability to draw upon his state’s plenitude of wealthy Republican donors, Perry will instantly join Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann in the top tier of GOP contenders. Poll already show him among the front runners; a CNN/ORC poll released Thursday has him in second, two points behind Romney.
To help introduce Perry and his record to our readers, we hereby inaugurate “Five Questions for,” with questions for the other major candidates to follow. These are questions we would like to ask the candidate, if we had an expectation that he would respond, and that we would like to see reporters pose them on the campaign trail.
In April you proclaimed three days of prayer in Texas to ask God to bring rain and end the drought. It hasn’t worked. Do you think God is punishing Texas with drought? Or could it possibly have something to do with climate change?
As Governor you’ve presided over 230 executions. Of the thirty death row inmates whose sentences you commuted, twenty-seven were juveniles after the Supreme Court outlawed executing juveniles in 2005, and two were developmentally disabled adults after the Supreme Court outlawed executing that group. Do you think executing juveniles and the developmentally disabled should be legal? Is there anyone who you think should not be executed? Do you think it’s possible Texas has executed anyone who was innocent?
At a Tea Party rally in 2009 you said that Texas has the right to secede from the Union, saying, “When we came in the Union in 1845 one of the issues was that we’d be able to leave if we decided to do that.” You added that the right might be exercised in the future. “If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.” You reiterated these views two days later. This leads some non-Texans to question your commitment to the country you now wish to lead. How do you respond to that concern?
You’re fond of bragging about Texas’s economic performance. Are you equally of proud of Texas’s poverty rate, which is the eighth highest of any state? How about the fact that—according to the Census—Texas ranks fifth highest in energy use per capita and fourteenth highest in violent crime per capita? How would you say your policies have contributed to those statistical outcomes?
Your forthcoming budget will cut billions of dollars from Medicaid and education. Why do you think this is a good idea, in light of the fact that Texas has the most non-elderly women without health insurance of any state, has the sixth highest percentage of women in poverty and the highest rate of children without health insurance?