Texas Gov. Rick Perry added an intriguing factor to the confusing Republican presidential race by saying he plans to “think about” joining the field.But despite repeated statements that he doesn't want to go to Washington, last week's comments weren't a total surprise. For some time, there have been rumblings about a possible Perry presidential bid. Given the wide-open GOP contest, he may figure his chances are as good as anyone's.(Disclaimer: In 2008, Perry made me an honorary Texan and an admiral in the Texas Navy. There was no quid pro quo.)Whether Perry actually runs probably is unknown to anyone else right now.One theory has been that the thing that could deter him would be the candidacy of his political soul mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. For her part, she has said Perry would be “a fine candidate” and that “we have a lot in common.”Though Perry's prospects of winning the presidency seem, at best, questionable — unless the state of the U.S. economy next year gives any Republican a chance — he has assets that could make him a viable GOP contender:• A rancher and fifth-generation Texan, Perry's rugged “Marlboro Man” persona is somewhat reminiscent of the GOP's greatest modern hero, Ronald Reagan. Perry is more colorful than such potential rivals as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Neither of them ever drew a pistol and shot a coyote menacing his dog. It's that sort of intangible that sometimes distinguishes successful candidates.• Perry is the nation's longest-serving governor, and governors have a good presidential track record, thanks to their own qualities, respect for their executive experience and wariness toward Washington. Four of the last six presidents were governors first.• Texas' economic strength gives Perry a good talking point, though it's also a major asset for Romney, a former business executive. Critics question the extent of Perry's achievements, but he has consistently held the line against tax increases, preferring to cut programs aiding the poor.• Initially a Democrat, Perry today has a consistently conservative record on social issues. This year, he pushed measures requiring women seeking abortions to first get a sonogram and for voters to show government-issued photo IDs. His talk about Texas secession may appeal to the GOP's increasingly influential tea party activists.• As a southern governor, he'd fill a regional void with the most Republican convention delegates. The only major candidate from a southern state is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a transplanted Georgian born in Pennsylvania.Perry also faces significant negatives:• His unfamiliarity with national and international issues could hamper him in the debates likely to shape the GOP race. He'd be competing with more experienced rivals, including second-time candidate Romney and congressional veterans Gingrich and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.• A presidential race is far tougher than a statewide contest, even for someone elected six such times in so large and diverse a state as Texas. Nothing Perry has experienced has prepared him for the high pressure, intense scrutiny and daily grind of presidential politics. In three gubernatorial races, he's been a reluctant debater, though he appeared twice with 2010 Republican primary rivals.• Planning a multistate presidential race takes more than raising money, touting one's record and having a pleasing personality. While no candidate yet has significant support, many rivals have been crafting campaign structures for months, if not years. And some key Perry advisers are working for Gingrich.• Republicans seeking a general-election winner might be wary. While his staunch conservatism appeals to GOP primary and caucus voters, it might limit his appeal to the independents he would need in order to win in November.• Though relatively unknown nationally, Texans know Perry as a career politician. He has held elective office for more than 26 consecutive years, longer than anyone elected president in U.S. history. Since Lyndon Johnson succeeded John Kennedy in 1963, no election winner had served more than 14 years.Carl P. Leubsdorf is the former Washington bureau chief of The Dallas Morning News. Readers may write to him via email at email@example.com.
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.