Lone shooting star

"Lone shooting star" Continued...

Issue: "Beyond the body count," Nov. 5, 2011

The roots of Perry's pro-life fervor are clear: "He doesn't just talk Christianity, he sincerely loves his Lord," said Rick Scarborough, a former Baptist pastor from Texas who now heads Vision America.

Perry is up front when it comes to his faith. In speeches since becoming governor, he has referenced Galatians, Romans, Timothy, Luke, Joel, Isaiah, and Ephesians. He has discussed the lives of Moses, David, and Paul. He has prayed with students in a public middle school and signed pro-family legislation on the campus of a Christian school. He often opens up business luncheons with prayer and regularly speaks from the pulpits of churches. He once compared holding office to a ministry: "I've just always been really stunned by how big a pulpit I was going to have," he told a group of Texas business leaders in May.

A long-standing member of Austin's Tarrytown United Methodist Church, Perry now regularly attends the contemporary evangelical Lake Hills Church. Led to the Lord at a Methodist summer camp at age 12, Perry recently told Liberty University students that soon after leaving the Air Force at age 27, he was "lost spiritually and emotionally, and I didn't know how to fix it." He would spend his nights pondering his purpose in life. "What I learned as I wrestled with God is that I didn't have to have all the answers, that they would be revealed to me in due time and that I needed to trust Him."

His outspokenness bothers some Americans: In early August, just before announcing his candidacy, Perry officially declared Aug. 6 a day of prayer and fasting and hosted a prayer service in Houston's Reliant Stadium. A national group of atheists unsuccessfully tried to stop Perry from appearing at the rally. "He's a wise, wise God, and He's wise enough to not be affiliated with any political party," Perry said before more than 30,000 who cried, sang, and shouted "Amen." "His agenda is not a political agenda, His agenda is a salvation agenda."

In his race for the GOP nomination, Perry has one of the most important elements to fuel any comeback: His campaign reported raising $17 million last quarter. That's more than any other candidate despite having less time than his rivals to raise funds this quarter. The cash ensures that, dismal debates or not, Perry won't have to leave the race anytime soon.

His long-term strategy to recover will include more paid media advertisements so that Perry's team can control the message: "Even the richest man can't buy back his past," says a new Perry video clearly aimed at Romney. A politician oftened call lucky by detractors, Perry caught another break when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie decided not to run.

But money and luck won't help in the face of a puzzling media strategy: Perry did not cooperate with WORLD for this story despite numerous emails and phone calls. That continues a trend that began with the Perry campaign's refusal to do any editorial board meetings or debates during last year's governor's race, infuriating newsrooms across the state.

Since entering the presidential race, Perry has done only a handful of interviews and often ignores reporters following him on the campaign trail. A Washington Post reporter in a Sept. 21 story wrote, "We contacted Perry's spokesman for an explanation but as usual he did not respond."

"America is looking for a president who will look them right in the eye and tell them the truth," Perry said at an early October event in Iowa after his initial debate missteps. "They are interested not in what some pundit says or the joke of the day."

That seems to be what Perry is counting on.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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