Texas Governor Rick Perry differentiates himself from another Texas Governor - George W. Bush -- by claiming that he is a Texas A&M graduate rather than a graduate of Yale. However, when it comes to winning a campaign, the self-styled lowbrow candidate has much political savvy, otherwise he would not boast an undefeated record.
Pundits who had written off the Texas governor after he plummeted from his pole position in the Republican race following a series of disastrous debate performances, tend to overlook Perry's ability to focus on what it takes to win.
Perry still believes, and so apparently does Mitt Romney, that we are still looking at a Rick versus Romney race. Both tend to discount, perhaps at their peril, Herman Cain's current lead in the polls.
Perry has done two things this week in an attempt to revive his candidacy. He has hired consultants who achieved success with Robert Dole and George W. Bush and whose connections extend beyond the governor's current Texas circle. He has recognized the limitations of his current team as well as the resistance to his candidacy amongst the Republican establishment. The new consultants are expected to remedy this. Perry has also taken on advisors with an enviable success record in Florida politics.
Florida is an early and key primary state. For Mitt Romney and Rick Perry to win the Republican nomination they must show that they can win outside their own turf.
Few people will be surprised when Mitt Romney takes New Hampshire; the same applies to a Rick Perry victory in South Carolina. Romney is expected to do better in blue Democratic leaning states and competitive states whereas Perry is expected to do better in Republican red states and particularly in the South.
Florida is somewhere in the middle. It is a southern state but it is competitive; Obama took it in 2008. It has its large share of Hispanic Americans and transplanted Northerners who moved to the Sunbelt. A victory in Florida would allow each candidate to brag that he has demonstrated a potential to win outside of his bastion.
Perry also recognized the approval or at least the buzz that Herman Cain was generating with his 9-9-9 flat tax plan. Perry has now offered his own flat tax plan that cuts out the sales tax or VAT in Cain's plan that aroused suspicion amongst fiscal conservatives who feared that such a tax could eventually rise. It also seemed too European.
Perry also hinted how he would cut entitlements and balance the budget. He packaged his proposals into a neat slogan of Cut, Balance and Grow while holding up a postcard to illustrate how the overly complicated American tax code would be rationalized and simplified into a postcard sized tax return.
Perry's plan will allow Americans to opt for the current system rather than a flat tax, but, he warns, they would end up paying the lawyers and accountants.
The package was presented in the Wall Street Journal, the flagship of the Republican establishment, making the statement that Perry expects his program to be treated seriously.