Democrats say Perry candidacy embarrassing Texas

Posted Friday, Nov. 18, 2011  comments  Print Reprints

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WASHINGTON -- Gov. Rick Perry, now at single-digit lows in polls after his highflying start on the presidential campaign trail, has performed so badly on the national stage that there's talk back home -- especially from Democrats -- that he's embarrassing Texas.

"When he announced on Aug. 13, I said, 'He's not ready for prime time,'" said former Democratic U.S. Rep. Martin Frost. "It's somewhat embarrassing, but it reflects he was never ready to be a presidential candidate. It doesn't reflect on him being governor of Texas."

Texas Democratic consultant Harold Cook put it bluntly: "He has embarrassed himself and his state. Yes, he makes Texas look bad. But there's a new national knowledge as to how Perry has been running the state."

In Austin, James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said that "you are seeing a little bit of political entrepreneurship that you wouldn't otherwise see" as Perry's rivals seek to exploit his growing weakness.

He pointed to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a sometime Perry ally. Straus recently started speaking out against higher education reforms backed by Perry as well as the governor's touting of the state's Enterprise Fund as a way to create jobs.

Henson said officials and business leaders would be reluctant to voice negative feelings about Perry, who has been governor for nearly 11 years, if and when he returns to being governor full time.

"It's a matter of fear and business," he said.

Perry cratered in a televised debate performance Nov. 9, where for 53 seconds he couldn't remember one of the three agencies he would eliminate as president.

"I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the ... what's the third one there? Let's see."

Eventually, he said "Oops." Later in the debate, he weighed in with the name -- the Energy Department.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said Perry's brain freeze was "the most devastating moment of any modern primary debate."

Republicans dismiss the criticism from Democrats as meaningless partisan sniping.

Maria Recio is the Star-Telegram's Washington bureau chief. 202-383-6103

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