Texas Gov. Rick Perry insists emphatically that he's not the second coming of his predecessor, George W. Bush. But the comparisons are "unavoidable," says Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post. They walk and talk alike, "they've both been Texas governors. They're both fluent in Bubba, and both unapologetically have been brought to their knees by Jesus Christ." Longtime observers of both men agree with Perry, though, and caution both fans and foes of the newest 2012 presidential candidate to look past the obvious similarities. Here, six ways that Bush and Perry are decidedly not the same brand of Texas Republican:
1. Perry's a real Texas cowboy
Bush "adopted a swaggering, plain-speaking populist persona," but "Perry — the poor ol' farm boy from Paint Creek — is the genuine article," says Bob Moser in The American Prospect. Perry had a hard childhood and is "a hard man," says Paul Burka in Texas Monthly, whereas Bush, "the scion of a political dynasty, always seemed more comfortable with the country club set." Oddly, despite the East Coast silver spoon, Bush also seemed "far less the poseur than Perry," says James C. Moore at CNN. Stylistically, "W effortlessly out-Texans him."
2. Bush aimed to be a "uniter"; Perry's a divider
"As governor, Bush positioned himself as 'a uniter, not a divider,'" and got on well with Democratic majorities in the state legislature, says Texas Monthly's Burka. Perry is "dismissive of Democrats," and doesn't even have many friends in the state's GOP majority. In fact, a big reason relations are "frosty" between the two Texans is that when Perry ran to be Bush's lieutenant governor in 1998, Bush "wanted everyone on the ticket to run positive races," and Perry defied the order. "Bush preached compassionate conservatism," says Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith in The Washington Post, while "Perry's brand of conservatism is austere bordering on severe."
3. Bush had better message discipline
Neither man is apologetic about his conservative views, says Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast, but Bush was a master of "dog-whistle politics." He mostly avoided careless quotes and "steered well clear of extremism" in public. Perry, on the other hand, "traded in his dog whistle for an air-raid siren." That's one reason the press "has always fawned over" Perry: He's "a human treasure trove of outrageous quips," says The American Prospect's Moser. And unless his campaign "can glue Perry's tongue to the roof of his mouth," the colorful remarks will keep on rolling.
4. Perry is undefeated
One little-noted but "critical difference" between the two men, says Texas Monthly's Burka, is that "Bush lost his first race, for Congress. Perry has won every race he's ever run." He triumphed in three gubernatorial races, and "has never actually lost an election since he began his career in politics as a state representative, in 1984," says The Economist correspondent Erica Grieder at her blog. Perry has been helped by many opponents who imploded, but if his winning streak is just "dumb luck, I'd like to have some for myself."
5. Bush is reputedly brainier than Perry
"If Rick Perry and George W. Bush had been born in the same family," says CNN's Moore, "W would have become known to friends as 'the smart one.'" Even when I first met Perry, in 1985, he "stood out for his modest intellectual gifts," says Paul Begala at The Daily Beast. Bush graduated from Yale, while Perry "got a C in animal breeding" at Texas A&M. C'mon, says The Economist's Grieder. "Perry is not an idiot." He may not be "book smart by University of Chicago standards," says The Texas Tribune's Smith. But "he's plenty street smart — and street smart is still smart."
6. Bush courted the media; Perry shuns it
"Bush had a warm relationship with the media," especially as governor and in his first years as president, says Smith. Perry, on the other hand, "doesn't court reporters or, especially, newspaper editorial boards; in fact, he refused to meet with any editorial boards during the 2010 governor's race," relying instead on conservative bloggers. Luckily for Perry, the press doesn't share that antipathy, says The American Prospect's Moser. Thanks largely to his "unquestioned entertainment value" and crafty politicking, the media have already elevated Perry "to frontrunner status" in the 2012 race.