Last night’s debate on Bloomberg TV focused on the US economy. This was a good choice by debate sponsors, because the American people are focused on the economy out of self-defense. The abject failure of President Obama and his gaggle of academic charlatans and Wall Street Wonderboys to grasp even the basics of business, is no surprise to economic conservatives. If one is overly kind, one could call the state of our current economy “iffy”. For that reason alone, people are ready to hear Republican ideas to repair the economy.
The debate was an opportunity for Republican presidential candidates to discuss their thoughts on the economy in more detail than other formats have allowed. Many of them, including Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney made good use of the format. Others did not do as well.
Texas Governor Rick Perry didn’t lose the economics debate last night, but it may eventually cost him the nomination anyway. Perry needed a reversal in direction for his campaign and his lackluster performance did not do that. He will continue to slide in the polls because he gave no reason for the slide to stop.
Perry is right, of course, on his statements about the necessity to utilize our natural resources to save the economy. He mentioned it several times but never ventured beyond the painfully obvious. Simply put, Perry never connected the dots. There was no analysis; no linking of job production outside of the energy sector; and most importantly to his campaign, no burning reason why voters should stick with the Perry bandwagon.
Perry could have easily pointed out that we need relatively inexpensive energy to increase production of both goods and jobs. Less expensive goods – and lower transportation costs – means more exports in all sectors, which means more jobs. Less expensive products are more affordable to America’s middle class. Common sense, increased energy production lowers fuel prices; a large benefit to rural families devastated by this stubborn recession. All of this could have easily been tied to the Texas Governor’s ideas on energy and jobs. Perry failed to explain how that would work.
A good staff would have updated Governor Perry on the cost of energy in New Hampshire and the estimated cost increase due to the EPA’s recent regulation change that affects coal-fired energy plants. Perry could have pointed out that, under his leadership, Texas has sued the EPA because of that changed regulation. Not only would this have offered a specific example of how a Perry presidency would differ from the Obama Administration, it would have allowed Perry to rise above the other participants by targeting President Obama and the Democrats.
Resurrecting the energy sector is a conservative and a populist position that will attract many independents. Strategically, it’s a good position for Perry if he can articulate it with passion. But beyond energy policy, Perry appeared without ideas; only able to point out the many jobs that were created in Texas during his administration. The problem for Perry is that he doesn’t tie that job creation to his policies as governor.
Perry did say that his economic plan would be available within three days, but that may be three days too late to save his chances for the nomination. Arriving on the GOP scene late allowed Perry to shoot to the top of the polls, because many Republicans were not satisfied with the announced candidates. Arriving on the GOP scene late without a plan caused Perry to fall in the polls because many Republicans were not satisfied with his answers. Last night did not resolve that problem.
When all was said and done, Perry did not do badly, but he also did not do enough to prop up his campaign. He, along with the rest of the field, have a few short months before the first primary. In the meantime, Governor Perry’s campaign may not be on life-support, but it’s in serious condition. First, he must first stop the bleeding and then his campaign must make a dramatic recovery. Like the state of our current economy; though, it certainly looks iffy.