Former Texas congressman Martin Frost, a Democrat, was ahead of the curve on Gov. Rick Perry. When Perry was first announcing his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination six months ago, Frost predicted a rough road for the Texas governor.
Frost pointed to Perry’s evolving position on whether gay marriage should be a states’ rights issue. On ABC’s “Top Line” political talk show today, Frost said the Texas media is largely to blame for giving Perry “a free ride” during his career as governor.
“What I think a lot of people didn’t realize is that Rick Perry has had a free ride from the local media in Texas for the last 10 years, and so he’s not used to dealing with tough scrutiny, and that’s because newspapers have shrunk in Texas,” Frost, 69, said. “The major newspapers have laid off almost half of their staff. Television news has never been very aggressive in Texas, and so he’s now on a different playing field, and that was one of the things that I pointed out when he first announced his candidacy; that he was in the big leagues now and he wasn’t used to dealing in the big leagues.”
But Perry has a long career in Texas and has shown himself to be a political survivor. Frost said his survival, however, has been in Texas, which he described as “a very conservative state.”
“I wouldn’t write him off,” Frost. “He still has a chance to come back, simply because the Republican electorate is so conservative, and if he can somehow go to school. If he can somehow learn about foreign policy, practice a little bit more for debates, he’s still a very viable candidate. And he can raise lots of money, but he’s on the ropes right now.
“And don’t look at the past, because – remember his politics are pretty consistent with where Texas is politically, so it wasn’t surprising that he was able to come back in Texas.”
Perry survived a challenge by the popular moderate Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010. But Frost said the national view that Perry was really challenged by Hutchison is incorrect.
“I don’t think he ever was really on the ropes there. His biggest problem is that he’s never really had to think about some of these national issues before,” said Frost, pointing to Perry’s odd answer to a foreign policy question at a debate in Florida Sept. 22.
“Clearly, his answer on foreign policy when he was asked about Pakistan was almost incoherent and a national candidate can’t do that. I’m not sure how he prepares himself,” Frost said. “I’m not sure what they do to educate him, to send him to school, but he’s got to be a lot better, and you can’t just say, ‘Oh, gee, I’m not a good debater.’ That doesn’t wash.
“The American people expect someone to be able to handle themselves. They don’t have to be brilliant. Ronald Reagan showed that he was a better debater than people thought. He wasn’t brilliant, by any means, but he was adequate and a little bit better than adequate, and that’s where Perry has got to get to pretty soon.”
Frost argued that debates scan be key, especially for candidates in a presidential race.
“People get so much of their information not just from watching a debate but watching the excerpts from the debate on the evening news or on the morning news the next day,” he said. “That’s where people learn a lot about candidates. It may not be fair. It may not be the most equitable way to do things, but the average person sees 30 seconds or a minute from a debate and if those 30 seconds or a minute are deadly, that candidate’s got real problems.”
In terms of how Frost the Democrat thinks Perry would fair in the general election against President Obama, he said, “Oh, I think that Perry would be an easier candidate for [Team Obama] than Romney,” joking that Perry might be the one candidate Obama could beat. “There was a wonderful roast that I went to of Ann Richards, the governor of Texas, a number of years ago, a roast for charity. Charlie Wilson, the great Charlie Wilson, former congressman of Texas, got up at that roast and said he knew God was a Democrat, because God gave Ann Richards the only two candidates she could beat.
“That was Jim Mattox in the primary and Claytie Williams in the general election. There may be a repeat here. Some higher being may give Barack Obama the best candidate to beat.”