Congressional Republicans are worried that Rick Perry’s campaign has become a gaffe machine that may endanger the party’ chances of unseating President Barack Obama, POLITICO reports. As the Texas governor takes on the role of front-runner, his statements, like the one critical of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, have GOP lawmakers concerned that his campaign will self-destruct — or worse, win the nomination, but alienate the independent voters needed to win the general election.
“You can’t be calling Bernanke a traitor and you can’t be questioning whether or not Barack Obama loves America, that type of thing,” Rep. Peter King (R-NY), told POLITICO. “I’ve been with Perry a few times, and I can see how he could project, again, if it’s done the right way. But no, if he continues this, he’ll have a tough time.”
Another congressmen suggested Perry needs to rethink his strategy so as not to alienate independent voters. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), a member of the GOP leadership said of the Bernanke comments: “That’s not something you want to lead with if you’re trying to get independents to come your way. I would imagine that he’s thinking through his strategy.”
Political analyst Charlie Cook says given Obama’s dismal poll numbers and the sorry state of the economy, “this election is the Republican Party’s to lose.” And they just might — if they alienate the independent voters that make up a plurality of the electorate.
Perry’s controversial statements questioning global warming and evolution could even help him at this stage of the campaign, POLITICO’s Darren Samuelsohn writes, as they are beliefs shared by many in the party’s conservative base. But continuing down this road makes him less electable in the general election — and thus less desirable to the party elite and others with the primary goal of retaking the White House.
Independent voters are focused on the economy — and are dissatisfied with Obama’s leadership of it — and inserting other “wedge issues” will only weaken Republican odds next year.
Cook sums up the GOP nominating dilemma perfectly: “At some point in this process, Republican voters are going to have to choose between their hearts and their heads. Do they want to nominate someone who projects the dominant philosophy, energy, and spirit of the party and run a high risk of losing, or do they go with their heads, compromising (yes, that dirty word) that energy and go with someone who might win a majority of the independent votes?”