VOTE 2012

Rick Perry drops out of GOP presidential race

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Perry, 61, was relatively unknown outside of Texas until he succeeded George W. Bush as governor after Bush was elected president in 2000. A former Democrat, Perry had already spent about 15 years in state government when he became governor. He went on to win election to the office three times - the most recent was in 2010 - to become the state's longest-serving chief executive.

(Photo: Flickr/eschipul)

Part of Perry's appeal came from his humble beginnings as a native of tiny Paint Creek, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University and was a pilot in the Air Force before winning election in 1984 to the Texas House of Representatives. He switched to the GOP in 1989, and served as the state's agriculture commissioner before his election as lieutenant governor in 1998.

Perry's success as a politician suggested he would be a strong competitor to Obama. He had never lost a race in Texas, and his fight against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010 showed how tough he could be on a rival.

Perry picked Aug. 13 for his official announcement speech, the same day as the Iowa Straw Poll. While rival Michele Bachmann won that poll, the Texas governor cast a shadow over her victory by challenging her as conservatives' best hope for winning the nomination and defeating Obama.

He entered near the top of some polls. But his support of a Texas policy to allow children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates soon proved to be problematic with conservatives nationwide. So, too, did his 2007 order that would have required schoolgirls in Texas to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus. Although state lawmakers overturned the order, Perry defended the vaccination as necessary to combatting the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer.

His performance on the campaign trail also led to concerns about how his rhetoric would sound to a national audience. During a campaign stop in Iowa in August, he suggested that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would be practically committing treason if he were to print more money and said, "I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas."

A Perry speech to a New Hampshire audience in October led to a damaging video, during which he appeared unusually animated - "loopy" to some observers - a stark contrast to the image of the serious, starchy governor he had projected. Amid questions, Perry later told reporters that he hadn't been drinking or taking medication at the time and called it "a pretty typical speech for me."

More flubs followed. While criticizing the nine-member Supreme Court to a newspaper editorial board, he referred to "eight unelected and frankly unaccountable judges" and struggled to come up with the name of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, then called her "Montemayor." He urged college students in New Hampshire to support his candidacy, "those of you that will be 21" on Election Day, though the voting age is 18.

The widespread criticism of those performances and his rivals' attacks on his immigration and vaccination policies led to a significant drop in support.

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