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Caucus 2012 voter's guide: Rick Perry

BY MELISSA DAWKINS | DECEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa caucus candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is going all-in on Iowa social conservatives, one observer says.

Perry's campaign shifted its focus to social issues earlier this month when it released an ad in Iowa, pushing the candidate's support for prayer in school and proclaiming that the governor is "not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian."

The Perry video, "Strong," has more than 600,000 "dislikes" and approximately 20,000 "likes" on YouTube, making it the most disliked video in the website's history.

Rutgers University political expert David Redlawsk, the author of Why Iowa?: How the Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process, said Perry is trying to appeal to a specific demographic of potential Iowan supporters.

"Iowa Republican caucus-goers are socially conservative," he said. "Perry is trying to reset. He's trying to say, 'Social conservatives, this is a real conservative.' He needs to get attention again, and certainly this ad has gained him attention."

However, not all of Perry's campaigning has focused on social and religious issues. In an email, Perry told The Daily Iowan he is concerned first with the economy.

"My campaign is about getting America working again," he wrote. "I've proposed several policies — a flat tax, a balanced budget, job creation through domestic energy production, and the creation of a part time citizen Congress in order to overhaul the Washington establishment and unleash our private sector to create the jobs our nation needs to return to the path of prosperity."

And he also said he has a specific plan to improve the U.S. economy.

"I've laid out a proposal to create over 1.2 million jobs through executive action. Furthermore … I've proposed a flat individual and corporate income tax rate of 20 percent. This plan is optional for individuals and preserves deductions for mortgage interest, charity, and state and local taxes," he wrote.

However, University of Iowa economics Professor Beth Ingram said it's hard to say exactly what such policies would do the economy.

"It's not as simple as saying if you deregulate, then jobs will be created," she said. "Sometimes, if you think about it, creating more regulations would produce more jobs and vice versa … It's not as simple as the candidates are making it seem. This is very complicated, and they don't have time to explain it in-depth."

Redlawsk said this focus on the economy is typical of the Republican field of candidates vying for the 2012 presidential nomination.

However, he said, "the challenge for candidates is to differentiate themselves as candidates."

Perry stumbled in a November Republican debate in Michigan when he forgot one of the three federal Cabinet departments he wants to eliminate.

Perry said that gaffe won't be detrimental in his presidential bid.

"I had a human moment," he wrote in the email. "And Americans understand that."

However, Perry has fallen in the polls recently.

According to Gallup polling data tracking registered Republican voters, Perry was trailing with 6 percent ballot support for the week of Dec. 4 through Dec. 8.

Perry is behind Newt Gingrich's 37 percent, Mitt Romney's 23 percent, and Ron Paul's 9 percent. He is tied with Michele Bachmann.

"To the extent that the polling can be believed," Redlawsk said, "he's very much an 'also ran' at this point."


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