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Politico's report today that Rick Perry is actively calling Iowans to assess his chances in the run-up to the Ames poll comes at an amazing moment for the Texas Governor: he has become the leading anti-Obama candidate (if he runs).
What Pete Wehner has summarized as the bleak/horrible/awful/God-awful/dismal/terrible/absolutely flat out terrible jobs report this week may be the biggest blow yet to Obama's presidency.
Now well past two and a half years from the Bush presidency, he can no longer blame his predecessor with any credibility except among the hardcore left who will still be blaming bad things 20 years from now on Bush. And Obama has virtually nothing to which he can point that shows his actions will result in an improved economy. The class warfare, the stimulus, the health care law, his empty promises to reform regulations, etc., etc., are all the wrong answer. And Americans know it.
Enter Rick Perry. His state created more than half of all new jobs in America in the past decade and 37 percent of new jobs since the recession.
Obama is the anti-jobs President. Rick Perry, if he gets into the race, is the pro-jobs candidate. And that makes him the anti-Obama candidate in a way that the others cannot be.
One of the main reasons so many Republican observers wanted Mitch Daniels to get into the race was because he was perfectly positioned as the anti-Obama on the issues of debt and deficit. His parsimonious fiscal fortitude stood out in stark contrast with Obama's deficit-spiking, debt-driven, spending-addicted presidency.
But the jobs report has rendered an even more painful verdict on Obama less than a year and a half before November 2012. Perry can take advantage of the moment and position himself as the quintessential opposite of Obama. He stands out from the pack pretty clearly.
Romney's experience with health care will always prevent him from being the best anti-Obama candidate.
Pawlenty's main credentials boil down to having succeeded as a conservative governor in a blue state, but his anti-Obama credentials are thin.
Bachmann is the anti-Obama ideologically. She is as conservative as he is liberal, which is why she has skyrocketed on the back of conservative voters' enthusiasm. But this type of opposition to Obama is less weighty than Perry's.
Huntsman worked for Obama. Enough said there.
Only Perry can stand toe-to-toe with Obama on the issue of jobs and claim that, unlike the President, he knows what it means to preside over an energized, productive economy.
Plus, with Texas's economy about the size of Russia's, Perry has the magnitude of his accomplishment on his side: simply put, Texas is just plain big, and it's getting bigger by any measure - population, GDP, you name it. Only California is bigger as a state, and yet the Golden State is trending downward by just about every measure. Texas stands alone as a mega-state whose economy is a model for the nation.
If Perry enters the race now, the expectations for him in the Ames poll will be fairly low, meaning that he stands a lot to gain. He would likely have a top three finish unless he does something disastrous or embarrassing between now and then.
All signs suggest he's getting in. If he does, he will quickly scramble the polls and give both Romney and Bachmann a few things to worry about. And that will be because he will give voters something to be hopeful about: executive leadership that knows something about opportunity, growth, and jobs.