Rick Perry's Day of Prayer: Masterstroke or mistake?

At a much-hyped rally, the Texas governor asks God to help get America back on track. Could such blatant piety help him secure the GOP presidential nomination?

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) led 30,000 in prayer Saturday - an event that has critics divided over its political influences.
(Image credit: Brandon Thibodeaux/Getty Images)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry put his presidential prospects on the line Saturday, when he led a massive, controversial Houston prayer rally — dubbed The Response — to ask God's forgiveness for "fear in the marketplace" and "anger in the halls of government." Perry said nothing to the 30,000 Christians in attendance about a possible run for the GOP nomination, but the scope and focus of the rally clearly suggests presidential ambitions. Did the prayer day boost Perry's political fortunes?

Yes. This risky bet paid off: Perry took a "major political gamble" by making his national debut with a religious rally, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. Had the crowd been thin, or the tone turned too political, this could have been a disaster. But Perry proved he can draw a crowd and displayed a "plain-spoken speaking style" that "should work well for him on the stump in Iowa and South Carolina." Saturday's rally ensures he'll be a "top-tier" candidate if he runs.

"Rick Perry's positive 'Response'"

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No. Praying with bigoted preachers was a tactical error: Perry's "big Jesuspalooza" can only hurt his presidential prospects, says Teddy Partridge at Firedoglake. Moderates and independents will be turned off by the sight of a presidential hopeful sharing the stage with far-right, anti-gay pastors. "Rick Perry may run for president, but he can't run from his association with these hate preachers and hatemonger groups who sponsored his big event."

"Brave GetEQUAL Texans respond to Rick Perry's 'The Response'"

But Perry galvanized the voters he needs the most: As a would-be candidate for the GOP nomination, Perry took an expedient step, say Megan Ryan and Naheeda Sayeeduddin at the Houston Chronicle. This "early foray into the national spotlight" — conceived and initiated by Perry — marked "one of the most explicit appeals to conservative Christians" that any GOP candidate has made so far. It firms up Perry's bona fides with the evangelicals who make up more than half of GOP primary voters.

"Rick Perry prayer event establishes his Christian conservative bona fides"

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