Nonetheless, the rally might have gone largely unnoticed to most, but then the house of cards known as the U.S. economy seemed to come crashing down, almost on cue. Last Friday, Standard & Poor's ominously downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time after markets had closed for the weekend. The downgrade alone could have spurred greater interest in the rally, as Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated with their financial prospects and many turn to religion to fill the void. To add insult to injury, the United States suffered a major setback in Afghanistan on Saturday, as 30 U.S. troops were killed, 22 of them Navy SEALs, in the single deadliest attack on U.S. military forces since combat operations began. Only two weeks earlier, on July 22, Norway was shocked by a nightmarish twin attack in Oslo that claimed the lives of 77 people, many of them teenagers. The negative news continued on Monday as the stock market took a turn for the worse, with all three U.S. stock indexes losing between 5% and 7%.
In previous weeks many political analysts had viewed Perry's participation in the rally as foolhardy, or at best a wash. Instead, in a stroke of blind luck, Perry is poised to look almost heroic for his at-times tearful weekend performance, particularly as reports leak of President Obama playing golf over the weekend. Perry's political gamble seems to have paid off, and his campaign seems ready to pounce. There is widespread speculation Perry will give a "soft" announcement of his candidacy this Saturday at the RedState Gathering in Charleston, South Carolina. Such an unofficial announcement would not only draw attention away from the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, in which Perry is not listed as a candidate, but would also allow Perry to continue to amass donors and staff members without adhering to the stricter guidelines that fall into place once a candidate officially announces. When and if Perry finally does officially announce his candidacy he could very well find himself near the head of the pack. Recent aggregate polling data from Real Clear Politics shows Perry closing in on Mitt Romney, with Perry polling at 14.4% versus Romney at 19.6%, on average.
Yet, despite his idiosyncrasies Perry will look very good to many Americans, at least on paper. He is an evangelical Protestant (Methodist), which, although off-putting to some is very appealing to a large segment of the population. He has been governor of Texas for over 10 years, which makes him the longest continuously serving current U.S. governor and also makes him the longest-serving governor in Texas history. As governor of a border state, some speculate that Perry would be more equipped to handle the complex politics of immigration. Perry has also shown admirable courage at times. For example, in 2007 Perry advocated for all Texas girls to receive the HPV (human papillomavirus) before reaching 6th grade, a political risk that was hugely unpopular with social conservatives and which is a cause of hostility toward him even today.
As governor he oversees an economy of $1.2 trillion, the second-largest in the United States. Perry's calls for limited government, less regulation and low taxes have made him a hero to many. Texas has maintained a low cost of living and relatively low unemployment rates (8.2% in June, versus the national average of 9.2%) and accounts for 37% of all net job creation nationwide since the economic recovery began. Whether the robust Texas economy can be attributed to Perry is another question entirely. A fair point is that many traits of the Texas economy are simply policies inherited from previous administrations. Texas has the good fortune of being blessed with a wealth of natural resources, including oil, minerals and seaport access. Texas has also benefited of course from cheap immigrant labor. Still others describe the Texas economy as a race to the bottom, and an experiment in economic liberalism at its most cynical. Critics cite, for example, statistics from 2010 which indicate that 9.5% of Texas hourly workers are paid at minimum wage or less, an embarrassing distinction Texas shares with Mississippi.
But for the foreseeable future what many Americans will remember is that on Saturday, Aug. 6 Perry prayed for America during a free rally open to the public in an urban city in Texas. While juvenile to some, the gesture alone could mean thousands of votes and thousands of supporters. Romney and Obama would do well to tiptoe around the subject of the rally in any debates or discussions. It will be difficult to defend a criticism of Perry's most popular quote from the event, especially when so many millions of Americans are struggling to survive financially and spiritually:
"Lord, you are the source of every good thing, you are our only hope. And we stand before you today in awe of your power, and in gratitude for your blessings, in humility for our sins. Father our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see angers in the halls of government. And as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness. We pray for our nation's leaders, Lord, for parents, for pastors, for the generals, for governors, that you would inspire them in these difficult times. Father we pray for our president, that you would impart your wisdom upon him, that you would guard his family. We pray for our military and the families who love them. Father especially, for those special operators who lost their life yesterday in defending our freedoms. You call us to repent, Lord, and this day is our response. We give it all to you. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever." (Fox News)
Christian Science Monitor, Fox News, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia, Huffington Post, Washington Post, ThinkProgress.org, DepartmentOfNumbers.com