Why Rick Perry is airing an 'anti-gay' ad: 5 theories
In a new ad in Iowa, the Texas governor attacks gays in the military, President Obama's "war on religion," and the War on Christmas. Why so negative?
"Somewhat lost in the Newt Gingrich supernova is the fact that Rick Perry still has something the other fallen front-runners of 2011 lack: A big pot of campaign money," says Adam Sorensen in TIME. And he just spent $1.2 million of it on weeks of TV and radio ads in Iowa, where "he's planning a last stand of sorts." His most recent commercial (watch below) starts out with Perry saying, "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian," and there's "something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." He then vows to "end Obama's war on religion" and "fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage." What's Perry trying to do with this "anti-gay" ad?
1. The 'gay-baiting' is a play for Iowa's social conservatives
Perry is clearly wooing "evangelicals in Iowa" with this ad, says Steven Taylor in Outside the Beltway. And "as pure politics," his "gay-baiting" should resonate with them. Attacking gays in the military "isn't a popular national stance," but the Mike Huckabee "slice of the Iowa electorate, still up for grabs," will find it appealing, agrees Ben Smith in Politico. That said, I'm not sure "scrapping with Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum over what looks to be a less motivated," shrinking voting bloc will do Perry much good, says TIME's Sorensen.
2. He's subtly reminding voters that Romney's a Mormon
Perry's opening line that he's "not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian" is a "subtle slap at the Mormons in the race," particularly Mitt Romney, says Cathy Lynn Grossman in USA Today. Millions of U.S. evangelical Christians are "suspicious that Mormonism is not part of Christianity because of its distinctive views on the trinity." The time's running out for subtlety, Perry, says Jim Newell in Gawker. If you want to remind Iowa evangelicals that Romney's a sneaky Mormon, "just say it outright. No one likes an encoder."
3. Perry's also dog-whistling to the Obama's-a-Muslim crowd
This ad isn't Perry's first "faith-based appeal" for voters, but it "has one of the most audible dog whistles so far this cycle about President Obama," says Maggie Haberman in Politico. The bit about "Obama's war on religion" is a none-too-subtle "reminder of the false assertions that the Christian chief executive is really a Muslim." That angle might make sense for Perry, says Aaron Blake in The Washington Post. "His best/only path back to viability is painting himself as the most outspoken critic of President Obama."
4. He's using the ad as a "political beard"
This ad just adds to my growing suspicion that Perry is attacking gays "as a kind of 'political beard' to deflect attention away from the 'is he gay?' rumors" that have dogged him for two decades, says John Aravosis in AmericaBlog. Nobody has ever proven that the long-married Perry is gay, but he sure "sets my gaydar off," and his "sudden embrace of political gay-bashing" looks a lot like he's protesting too much.
5. Perry wants to tap into the war on the "War on Christmas"
It's no accident that "Perry conveniently comes to religion's defense just as the War on Christmas is gearing up," says Nolan Hicks in the Houston Chronicle. By conflating "Obama's war on religion" and kids being unable to "openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school," Perry's trying to suggest that "Obama hates Christmas," says Alexandra Petri in The Washington Post. Well, "Christmas Warrior" Perry is treading on thin ice, says Tommy Christopher in Mediaite. It turns out Perry himself is "a 'Happy Holidays' hipster who took the 'Christ' out of Christmas way before it was cool," as far back as 1992 — and as recently as 2008.