Until 1989, Rick Perry was a conservative Democrat. He switched parties as, like many Democrats including Ronald Reagan and Phil Gramm, he saw that party moving farther and farther to the left. Under Perry’s decade as governor, hundreds of Texas Democrats have followed his lead and become Republicans. As a former Democrat, Perry can speak to that swath of his former party that has become disenchanted with their party as President Obama has taken it even farther to the left, in a way that few Republicans can. He can also speak well and credibly to all wings of the national GOP, from the fiscal cons to the social cons to the libertarian set.
Texas has historically turned governors out of office after one term. George W. Bush broke that pattern when he was re-elected to consecutive terms in 1998. Gov. Perry has shattered that pattern, winning in 2002, 2006 and 2010 — the last, in a landslide. He is arguably the best campaigner Texas has ever produced, and assembles campaign teams around himself that flood the zone, using social media and cutting edge fundraising tools in ways that few GOP campaigns can match. Perry’s teams turn their opponents against themselves and skillfully use the media as both messenger and foil. The experience of running and winning statewide in Texas, a state with 254 counties and five major media markets, has prepared him and his team well to take their skills national.