Will this debate sink Perry’s presidential hopes?

Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry came out of the gate strong when he jumped into the race to become the Republican nominee for president in 2012. How could he not? He had that great hair, and that supposed good ol’ Texas boy charm on his side, not to mention the prayers of all those people who attended The Response in August. He was riding high, jumping to the tops of the polls and apparently leaving folks like Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann in the dust.

And then he opened his mouth and talked. And things started going downhill fast.

Perry’s troubles started with the Republican debates. At the first one, on Sept. 7, he was taken to task for calling Social Security “a ponzi scheme” and for his controversial executive order requiring schoolgirls to be vaccinated against HPV. And while the audience applauded when Perry said he doesn’t lose sleep over executions in Texas, there were plenty of people who found that statement appalling.

And things got worse at the Sept. 22 debate, from which Perry came away looking “shell shocked,” according to the Huffington Post, after other candidates, like nutball Rick Santorum, attacked him for being too lenient on immigration policies.

And now, as Perry prepares for his third debate tonight in New Hampshire, sponsored by Bloomberg News and The Washington Post, some folks — like MSNBC — are calling this “do or die time” for him. This MSNBC report shows that Romney has regained the lead in the polls, holding a precarious three-point lead over Herman Cain in Iowa and a robust 30-point advantage over the other candidates in New Hampshire, the sites of the earliest primaries, according to the most recent NBC News-Marist polls

And where is Perry? In Iowa, he is tied for fourth place with Bachmann, with 10 percent each, behind his fellow Texan, Ron Paul who has 11 percent. And in New Hampshire, where Romney leads with 44 percent and Cain and Paul are tied for second with 13 percent each, Perry scraped in 6 percent for fourth place, barely beating out Jon Huntsman, who had 5 percent.

Poor Rick — he went from the top of the heap to scraping the bottom of the barrel in just a little more than two months. Talk about your monumental flame-out! I guess that means that it takes more than a pretty face and good hair to win the presidency — and the support of rabid right-wingers like the Rev. Robert Jeffress. And I guess that means we’ll probably have to keep putting up with Perry here in Texas until at least 2014.

—  admin

FEC looking into Karger’s complaint against Fox

Fred Karger

Gay presidential candidate Fred Karger says he received confirmation today from the Federal Election Commission that it is looking into a complaint he filed against Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch.

Karger charges that he was excluded from an Aug. 11 Republican presidential debate even though he met all of the requirements.

Murdoch must now respond to the charges.

Karger filed an 82-page complaint under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. H claims he met Fox’s “pre-established objective criteria.”

Among the requirements was polling at an average of 1 percent in five national polls.

Karger claims he met that requirement when he received 2 percent in the Harris Interactive national survey released on Aug. 4. In that poll he tied with former Govs. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Jon Huntsman of Utah, both of whom were allowed in the debate.

Karger claims that after he met the requirement, Fox changed its criteria to exclude him.

“I qualified for last month’s Fox News Channel Debate fair-and-square, and was fully expecting to be on that stage in Ames,” Karger said. “For some reason, Fox News did not want me debating the other presidential candidates.”

He hopes the FEC acts quickly so that Fox will be forced to allow him to participate in the next Fox debate, scheduled for Sept. 22 in Orlando.

“The FEC has very specific rules dealing with these debates, and Fox certainly appears to have broken them,” Karger said.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: San Antonio to offer DP benefits; Indiana Republican in gay Craigslist scandal

Indiana State Rep. Phillip Hinkle

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Frontrunners Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann were among the candidates who came out strongly against same-sex marriage during a televised GOP presidential debate Thursday night in Ames, Iowa. Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman defended his support for civil unions, and the virulently anti-gay Rick Santorum actually appeared to express concern for gay people in Iran. Watch a video compilation of the candidates’ remarks on same-sex marriage from ThinkProgress below.

2. The city of San Antonio plans to begin offering benefits to the unmarried domestic partners of employees, both gay and straight, according to the Express-News. San Antonio, the second-most-populous city in the state, would become the fifth to offer DP benefits, joining Austin, Dallas, El Paso and Fort Worth. “For the city as an employer, it means we can be more competitive for great talent,” Mayor Julian Castro said. “For the San Antonio community, it means there are no second-class citizens. We’re a cosmopolitan city and we value everyone in our community.”

3. An anti-gay Republican state representative from Indiana is accused of hiring a male prostitute from Craigslist’s M4M section.The Indianapolis Star reports that State Rep. Phillip Hinkle offered the 18-year-old $80 for sex, plus tips. Hinkle picked up the teen and drove him to his hotel room. But when the teen found out Hinkle was a lawmaker, he got cold feet and called his sister to come get him. Joe.My.God. reports that Hinkle is a right-winger who opposes same-sex marriage and once forced the state to offer an “In God We Trust” license plate.

—  John Wright

Fox continues to exclude Karger from debates

Fred Karger

Fred Karger, the first openly gay person to file with the Federal Election Commission to run for president, has spent more time campaigning in New Hampshire than any other candidate and is preparing to participate in the Iowa Straw Poll. And although Karger meets all criteria, Fox News is not allowing him to participate in the upcoming candidate’s debate in Iowa.

“I read in the press like everyone else on Friday that in spite of meeting all its debate criteria, Fox News still refuses to allow me a place on the stage in Ames, Iowa this Thursday evening,” Karger wrote. “By not including me, even though I have qualified for the debate, Fox News appears to be in violation of Federal Election Commission rules governing all Presidential Debates. Fox released its debate criteria two weeks ago, which I clearly have met.”

Attorneys for the Karger campaign are preparing a complaint to be filed with the FEC.

Among the Fox News criteria is that to qualify for the debate, a candidate must average 1 percent in five national polls. In a recent Harris Interactive poll, Karger received 2 percent. He also received 1 percent in a Zogby poll and others.

In its response to the Karger campaign, Fox News disqualified both polls, but the network regularly cites the Zogby poll in its coverage.

In a Synovate Study released this week, Karger polls at 1 percent. Fox debate participants Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman were at just 2 percent in the same poll. Tim Pawlenty received 2 percent in the Harris poll and will also participate in the Fox debate.

The Los Angeles Times ran a story on Karger today discounting any chance of his winning. But they wrote that he has been haunted by the memory of his gay uncle who committed suicide and that he has a message to LGBT youth:

“I want to send the message to gay younger people and older people and everyone in between that you can do anything you want in life, and don’t feel bad about yourself and don’t feel you have to live your life the way I did,” Karger told the newspaper.

—  David Taffet

Perry would add another extremist to GOP race

Texas governor, who would be among field’s most conservative candidates, tells Iowa newspaper that ‘I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do’

CHRIS TOMLINSON | Associated Press

AUSTIN — Should Rick Perry conclude that voter discontent has left him an opening to enter the presidential race, the longtime Texas governor would be among the GOP field’s most conservative candidates.

Primary voters would get a skilled politician with TV anchorman looks, a Southern preacher’s oratory and a cowboy’s swagger, matched by a disarming candor and sense of humor. The former cotton farmer from the village of Paint Creek in West Texas has never lost an election in nearly three decades as a politician.

What they wouldn’t get is a candidate whose politics are positioned to unite a Republican electorate that stretches from moderate pro-business fiscal conservatives to evangelical social conservatives, with the tea party falling somewhere along the spectrum.

“Texans, God love them, have that bigger-than-life persona about politics and that doesn’t necessarily play everywhere,” said Christopher Nicholas, a Republican political consultant who has worked extensively in the Northeast and Midwest. “I haven’t heard a lot of Republicans call Social Security a disease.”

Perry has. He branded Social Security and other New Deal programs “the second big step in the march of socialism,” according to a book published last year. The “first step” was a national income tax, which he has said stands alongside the direct election of U.S. senators as a major mistake among the amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In the just-completed Texas legislative session, Perry’s “emergency items” included laws that require a photo ID in order to vote, a sonogram before a woman had an abortion and enforcement of federal immigration laws by local police.

He rejects the idea of global warming and the theory of evolution, arguing for natural climate variations and intelligent design of the universe.

In fact, he said last year when promoting his book, Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America From Washington, which was a state’s rights treatise that railed against the federal government, that he’s too conservative to run for national office.

“The best concrete evidence that I’m really not running for president is this book, because when you read this book, you’re going to see me talking about issues that for someone running for public office, it’s kind of been the third rail if you will,” Perry told The Associated Press shortly after winning re-election in 2010.

Perry doesn’t shy away from his deep conservatism. He embraces it with the same vigor with which he dismisses those who found his shooting of a coyote while the governor was jogging or spending tens of thousands of campaign dollars on a luxury rental home unbecoming a state chief executive.

Working with the fundamentalist American Family Association, Perry urged people to participate in a day of prayer and fasting on Aug. 6, following the example of the Bible’s book of Joel. Courting evangelical Christians always has been one of his core campaign strategies.

“When it comes to conservative social issues, it saddens me when sometimes my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left,” Perry told the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans this year. “Our party cannot be all things to all people.”

In the few polls that have included Perry, he ranks high among Republican primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, told The Associated Press on Saturday he thinks it’s very likely that Perry will jump into the race and reshape the state’s caucuses.

“I get the definite impression he’s very likely to run,” Branstad said, basing his opinion on a conversation the governors had Friday. “I think he becomes a significant factor if he becomes a candidate,” Branstad said. “It could change the whole complexion of the Iowa caucus race.”

Perry told The Des Moines Register that he would likely decide in two or three weeks. “But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs,” Perry said.

Should he run, Perry would seek the support of a wing of the party already courted by conservatives in important states such as Iowa. Those would-be rivals include U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a tea party favorite; former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a favorite of anti-abortion activists; and former businessman Herman Cain.

That could split the vote of the party’s conservative base, giving an opening to other Republicans seeking support across the GOP spectrum.

They include front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has reversed positions on several issues conservatives hold dear; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, whose moderate positions on some issues make him a nonstarter for conservatives; and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is struggling to break out of the pack.

Unlike some of those candidates, Perry has been consistent on culturally conservative issues.

States’ rights, however, is his signature issue.

In 2009, at one of the first rallies of a movement that would evolve into the tea party, he evoked the possibility that Texas might be better off seceding from the Union if what he called federal overreach continued.

He’s since said that lawmakers in state capitals should decide whether to legalize gay marriage or marijuana. In 2010, he toyed with the idea of pulling Texas out of Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care for low-income people. Perry gave up on the idea when the state’s comptroller said it would bankrupt the state.

Perry’s faith in the wisdom of local lawmakers and states’ rights has led him into strident fights with the Environmental Protection Agency.

In June, Perry signed a largely symbolic bill that allows Texas companies to continue producing incandescent light bulbs banned by the EPA, as long as they are sold within the state. Texas is the only state that has refused to put in place the EPA’s new rules regulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

Shawn Steel, a member of the Republican National Committee, met with Perry when he visited to California in late June. Steel said Perry sounds a lot like another big-state governor who was able to rely on charisma to win voters over to his conservative ideals. That was California’s Ronald Reagan.

“Reagan said a lot of controversial things, far more than Rick Perry,” Steel said. “It’s how he explained them and addressed them with that disarming smile of his and a very clever quip. Can Rick do that? That’s the question.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Slavery dropped from ‘Marriage Vow’; Presbyterian Church celebrates gay clergy

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is the only major GOP presidential candidate who’s spoken out against the Family Leader’s “Marriage Vow.”

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The “Marriage Vow” pledge that a right-wing Iowa group is asking presidential candidates to sign continues to make headlines. Over the weekend, the group, called the Family Leader, removed a portion of the pledge’s preamble which suggested blacks were better off during slavery. But this wasn’t before GOP candidates Michele Bachmann — who, alarmingly, leads one recent Iowa poll — and Rick Santorum had already signed the pledge, which also says homosexuality is a choice and calls for banning all pornography. Thus far, only one GOP presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, has spoken out against the pledge, although Jon Huntsman has also confirmed he won’t sign it.

2. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s new policy allowing ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians took effect Sunday. Many congregations marked the change with a national day of prayer organized by More Light Presbyterians, which pushes for LGBT equality within the church. The 2.8 million member Presbyterian Church joins other Protestant denominations including the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in allowing gay clergy.

3. Six police officers have been fired for lying about what happened during a September 2009 raid of the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. More officers face hearings this week following the release of a 343-page report showing they lied or destroyed evidence in the wake of the raid. Eight men were arrested during the raid, but charges were dropped and the city later paid the men more than $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: New York marriage vote could come tonight or early Thursday

Jon Huntsman

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The New York State Senate’s vote on a marriage equality bill is now likely to come late today or early Thursday, as talks continue over protections for religious groups, the Associated Press reports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he remains “cautiously optimistic” the bill will pass.

2. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman entered the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, and his campaign is making a pitch to gay donors based on his support for civil unions. But Huntsman took a step back this morning when he called marriage equality “impossible.”

3. Britney Spears new video for “I Wanna Go” premiered Tuesday night. Watch it below. Spears’ Femme Fatale tour comes to Dallas on July 12.

—  John Wright