Politics and Public Opinion

AEI Blog Symposium: Can the flat tax (or anything else) revive Rick Perry’s presidential campaign?

For this online symposium, we posed the following question to a variety of all-star pundits and commentators: Will the Perry tax plan kick start his faltering campaign?

Jay Cost, staff writer for the Weekly Standard.

It probably will not buy him many votes, as the issue is a little too fine-grained for the respondents in these national surveys. What it might do, however, is earn him some credibility with the sorts of “establishment” fiscal conservatives who can cut him big, fat checks. If Perry is going to win the nomination, he’ll need to raise at least $50 million, and probably a lot more. A flat tax proposal that appeals to such donors could help.

Still, it’s a long shot. He’s got a chicken-and-the-egg problem: he needs more donations, but donors want to see his poll numbers rise before they’ll chip in; to get his numbers up, he needs money to run ads! That’s the near-impossible situation you find yourself in when you blow a first impression as badly as Perry has. This flat tax proposal might be a way out, but color me skeptical. My first reaction to this proposal was to remember Bob Dole’s Hail Mary pass in 1996—picking Jack Kemp and endorsing a huge tax cut. It didn’t do much 15 years ago, and I have my doubts this will do much for Perry now.

Jim Geraghty, campaign correspondent at National Review Online.

After several weeks of moseying for president and thoroughly squandering a debut as front-runner, Rick Perry is finally running for president. There’s a lot to criticize in the 20-20 plan, most notably that it aims to be bold but wants to mitigate the impact by making it optional, trying to have it both ways.

But the impact of Herman Cain on the field is now clear: whoever the Republican presidential nominee turns out to be, he or she must stand for a big, dramatic overhaul of the tax code that hopefully will include drastic simplification. The tax plan and its attending reforms—repeal ObamaCare, repeal Dodd-Frank, cut $100 billion in non-defense discretionary spending within the first year—are a tall order, but campaigns are times to think big and after three to four years of psychological recession, the public is much more open to big ideas.

Ideally, Perry will flesh out his ideas in other areas—how to enact entitlement reform, foreign policy, how to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship—and reassure Republicans that he really has a clear vision of his agenda if elected president. After such a dramatic drop in the polls, it may be too late to save Perry, but he’s finally taken the advice to spend less time talking about what he’s done for Texas and more time talking about what he wants to do for America.

Matt Lewis, senior contributor at the Daily Caller.

Just as it took a series of missteps for Rick Perry to blow his early lead, it will take a series of successes to revive his faltering campaign. In that regard, the flat tax option proposed Monday is a great first step.

Perry’s plan—which drew immediate praise from conservatives ranging from Rush Limbaugh, to Grover Norquist, to the Club for Growth’s Chris Chocola—is bold, yet less vulnerable to criticism than Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan.

Voters are desperate to simplify America’s behemoth tax code—and Perry is hoping to satiate that conservative urge.

Can he do it? With $15 million in the bank, a new TV ad up in Iowa, and the addition of some top-notch new advisers, Team Perry is clearly aware they must run a better campaign going forward.

But blocking and tackling never excited anybody. The flat tax proposal means Perry’s campaign is about more than just making incremental changes on the margins—it is now about a big idea.

He got off to a rotten start, but don’t be surprised if Perry has a stronger second act up his sleeve.

Ed Morrissey, writer and columnist at HotAir.

Could Rick Perry’s new economic plan revitalize his campaign? It’s certainly possible. Until now, Perry has trailed his opponents in providing details on his policies in general, thanks to his late entry into the race. Having those details could make it easier for Perry to discuss policy in detail during debates, and increases his credibility on the stump. His overall plan has enough boldness for the media to take notice of it, not just in his alliance with Steve Forbes on tax reform but also on his endorsement of a balanced-budget amendment with a spending cap at 18 percent of GDP.

However, Perry’s rapid decline didn’t come from a lack of policy-wonk detail, at least not directly. Two bad debate performances followed by an incremental improvement in a third shook confidence in Perry as a candidate, with or without innovative policy positions. To the extent that having a solid policy foundation in his mind helps him debate, the plan could boost his standing again. However, this is not a simple plan, and it will take some eloquence to sell it to the general electorate. Can Perry overcome his apparent lack of talent in live debates to find that kind of eloquence? His performances so far do not give any indication that he will, and even a great policy won’t help Perry if he can’t demonstrate that he can keep up in a debate.

5 thoughts on “AEI Blog Symposium: Can the flat tax (or anything else) revive Rick Perry’s presidential campaign?

  1. In a primary campaign that is very abbreviated, personality matters more than policy. Thus Perry’s plan matters less than his ability to sell it to Republican voters, just as Cain’s plan has mattered less than his ability to make the case for it.

    This is not likely to be true of the general.

  2. Perry shot himself in the foot with his “I care more than you” on the tuition for illegals issue. Anyone who does not know that the issue is political suicide with the base (and many others) does not have the necessary judgement to be President.

  3. Actually, Perry may be in better shape than surface appearances suggest, and his campaign may in some ways be self-reviving. One curious aspect of Romney’s poll performance is that he seems more or less stuck a 25% GOP support. That suggest the other 75% would almost choose anyone else. Perry’s opportunity lies in that 75%.

    If Cain’s support subsides, which is obviously likely (although I, personally, like Cain a lot), it is hard to see his supporters moving to Romney en mass. But Perry could pick up most of them, especially if he works on his immigration stance and phrasing. Indeed, Perry’s flat tax proposal seems designed to appeal to those who are drawn to Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal. Bachman and Gingrich supporters also seems more likely to head to Perry than to Romney if those two withdraw or deline. (I concede that Huntsman’s supporters are more likely to gravitate to Romney, but there are few of those.) In short, if the field narrows as the primaries approach and Perry is at least somewhat clever in his strategy and fixing his past errors, he stands a very good chance of attracting the bulk of the 75% who really don’t care for Romney at all.

    In a general election Perry could be far more electable than Romney. With just a modicum of competence and luck Perry could beat Obama soundly under conditions that now seem likely to prevail in November 2012 (continuing bad economy, growing ObamaCare disapproval, etc). One hopes that GOP voters in the primaries keep in mind that Romney will NOT be able to effectively argue against ObamaCare, and that his record squarely shows that he can’t be trusted on healthcare issues anyway. That argumebnt should especially be made in the less-public caucus states.

  4. The problem with Perry is not that he doesn’t have some good ideas. His problem is that he has been inarticulate in the debates. Even some additional good proposed policies will not make up for his ability to explain himself well, especially if he is successful in getting the nomination and has to run against a very articulate President Obama.

  5. Perry didn’t have a clue about what HIS plan would do top revenue when asked by Bill O’Reilly.

    He’s far from being bright enough to be president.

    I can’t believe the GOP Chairman allows him out there giving ammo to the DNC to paint the GOP as idiots.

    We have a few great candidates, who are very smart, but Perry is just muddying the water.

    A ‘D’ in Introduction to Economics being the extent of his business schooling, and having never held a private sector job in his life.

    81% of all jobs in Texas since 2007 went to immigrants.
    40% of all jobs in Texas since 2007 went to illegal aliens.
    25% of the Texas workforce are without health care.
    Texas is #1 in the country with low paying no benefits jobs.
    Texas is #1 in the country with high school dropouts.

    Give that idiot the hook. He is a liability to the GOP election efforts for 2012.
    The DNC will use him as the poster child to paint and taint the party.

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