GOP debate shows Rick Perry running for governor, not president

Perry's positions appeal to Texans not Tea Partiers

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Rick Perry is running for governor, not president of the United States.

After last night's debate, this clearer than ever.

Perry's positions are geared to pleased Texans, first and foremost, and he is unwilling to dismiss those positions that were popular in the Lone Star state but offensive to the Tea Party nation.

Compare Perry's stances to another former state executive, Mitt Romney.

When Mitt was the governor of Massachusetts, he was a pro-choice liberal, a guy who didn't feel the need to profess his belief in Jesus Christ at the drop of a hat, a slightly right-of-center moderate who would later go on the create the template for what would President Barack Obama's defining socialist moment, his healthcare reform bill.

But when Romney enter the 2008 presidential race, he quickly changed course, distancing himself from the Mitt that Massachusetts knew. He was became a pro-life, Jesus freak, who was to the hard right on nearly every issue. Later, he even had the balls to bash ObamaCare.

Perry is unable or unwilling to do this when it comes to positions that are unpopular among Republicans nationwide.

Consider his decision to mandate HPV vaccines for all girls in the sixth grade. For a Tea Partier, this is a clear case of government overreach.

Or his positions on illegal immigration, positions on which Perry took a severe beating last night.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum was particularly effective in attacking the Texas governor.

One, he hit Perry's support of in-state tuition at Texas colleges and universities for the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants, and Romney delivered a knock-out blow when he noted that out-of-state American citizens had to pay far more for Texas tuition than illegals. (Perry responded by saying that anyone who opposed the plan did not "have a heart.")

And two, Santorum noted one of Perry's stranger proposals — one that surely played well among the Latino population in Texas but which Tea Partiers are sure to criticize. The former senator said:

"I would say that [Gov. Perry] is soft on illegal immigration. He doesn't want to build a fence. He gave a speech in 2001 where he talked about binational health insurance between Mexico and Texas. I mean, I don't even think Barack Obama would be for binational health insurance."

Ouch.

In the end, it's worth applauding Rick Perry for defending his past Tea Party indiscretions. That put him ahead of Romney in my book. But in the end, his unwillingness to bend to the whims of the day just might have doomed his run for the GOP nom.

His governor's seat sure looks secure though.

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