Candidate criticizes Obama's economic record, touts own
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, criticized President Barack Obama’s economic record Friday at a South Carolina Republican Party luncheon a few blocks from campus.
The $75 plate event, the beginning of a “First in the South” series planned to feature a number of candidates, was held to raise money for the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Perry only gave a seven-minute speech before leaving the podium to shakes hands with everyone in the room. He did not take questions from the press.
During his concise address, Perry stuck to what is expected to be the main issue of the upcoming primary and general election: the economy and, more specifically, reducing the unemployment rate. The longest-serving governor in Texas state history repeatedly denounced the president for, as he said, believing the government could create jobs, and repeatedly called for the government to step aside so the private sector could prosper.
“President Obama’s policies increased unemployment, exploded the debt, led to the first downgrade in the credit of the United States in history,” Perry said. “The central issue of this election is going to be an administration that believes that Washington must be our caretaker and a people who want Washington to only care for its constitutional responsibilities.”
Perry and Chad Connelly, the chariman of the SCGOP who introduced the governor, both touted the performance of the Texas economy during Perry’s tenure. They both pointed out that 40 percent of all new American jobs created during Perry’s more than a decade in office were created in Texas.
Texas’ job growth, however, did not keep pace with its population growth throughout the recession. Texas has an 8.4 percent unemployment rate — lower than South Carolina’s 10.9 percent but higher than 26 other states.
Perry said he governs by a few basic principles: “Don’t spend all the money,” “keep the taxes as low as you can while still delivering essential services,” “have a regulatory climate that is fair and predictable,” “have a legal system that doesn’t allow for oversuing” and, then, “get out of the way government!”
The governor also called for immediately repealing the president’s “misguided, one-size-fits-all, government-run health care plan.” Currently, one in four Texans are without health insurance, the highest proportion in the country.
Though Perry announced his presidential bid a just over a week ago in Charleston, the governor told the audience it felt like a month ago. To his primary rivals, it may feel like Perry has been in the race for even longer. The excitement of his candidacy has already placed him among the top contenders for the Republican nomination; a Rasmussen poll released Tuesday has him leading No. 2 Mitt Romney and No. 3 Michele Bachmann by double digits.
Perry excites many Republican voters as a popular fiscal and social conservative. The governor opposes abortions except in extraordinary cases such as rape and incest, supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and has said he is a firm believer in intelligent design.
But most attendees of the luncheon, like Perry, had the economy on the forefront of their minds. Jim Miles, who was secretary of state of South Carolina from 1991 to 2003, said he supports Perry due to his economic record in Texas.
“Government is not the answer to job creation, the private sector is,” Miles said. “It is two absolutely, diametrically opposite positions in regards to how jobs are created. Barack Obama believes that government stimulus creates jobs; Rick Perry believes the private sector freed up from government regulation creates jobs.”
But some, like Linda Kaster of St. Matthews, S.C., said they respected Perry for his social values in addition to his economic policies. Kaster thanked Perry personally for his Aug. 6 prayer meeting in Houston, which was criticized by some as a muddling of the lines of church-state separation.
“America was founded on Christian principles,” Kaster said. “Not everybody was a Christian and the revisionists want to rewrite history.”
When asked why she did not support Obama, Kaster said she was concerned about his religious persuasion.
“I do not believe he’s a Christian, I believe he’s a Muslim,” Kaster said. “He recognized the beginning of Ramadan and yet he did not have the prayer breakfast at the White House as had been traditional. He has done things that are detrimental to the Christian faith.”
The president has long said he is a Christian.