Two caveats to his otherwise strict support for the Tenth Amendment, both of which happen to serve the agenda of social conservatives whose votes he’s depending on. He backed away from his “states’ rights” defense of legalizing gay marriage last week; here’s the inevitable climbdown on abortion too, which he described as a states’ rights issue a few days ago. Follow that last link and re-read the post to see why it was predictable. I’m surprised he didn’t anticipate the tension his Tenther rhetoric on these issues would cause with his base, which he could have defused by mentioning his support for the amendments straightaway. There’s nothing necessarily inconsistent in that position: You can be a strong federalist and still condone federal solutions for exceptionally grave evils like slavery which the states, for various reasons, can’t be trusted to police as diligently as they should. That’s the core of the pro-life argument for an anti-abortion amendment — it’s a matter, literally, of life and death. What’s Perry’s argument, though, for why gay marriage qualifies as an “exceptionally grave evil” warranting a nationwide ban? Is smoking, say, an evil sufficiently grave to require a constitutional amendment outlawing it? (Don’t answer that, liberals.) He’s not in a legal trap here but he is in a philosophical one. And a political one, of course, as the press will use this to throw him off his economic message. Specify, please, which behaviors are so pernicious that we can’t risk letting parochial state legislatures deal with them.
Incidentally, as with Fred Thompson four years ago, the media’s “Perry as GOP savior?” hype is already being replaced by the “Perry as overhyped flop?” counter-narrative. Here’s Politico’s new piece wondering whether a tea-party-flavored Bush soundalike can get traction with the current conservative base. (One state Republican chairman compares Perry to “Will Ferrell doing a George W. Bush imitation.”) And here’s CNN noting that Perry’s upcoming prayer event, which can accommodate 71,000 people, has had just 8,000 registrants thus far. I doubt Perry cares — the real audience for that event is in Iowa, not Texas — but they’ll build that counter-narrative with any available brick. Exit question via Democratic pollster PPP: Does the GOP need Romney to win?