The likely Republican nominee for the 2012 U.S. presidential race declared his candidacy on Aug. 12 in South Carolina. Speaking to conservatives, Texas Governor Rick Perry said: “I’ll work every day to make Washington D.C. as inconsequential in your life as I can.” Perry not just talks, he acts the part of a true Texan: he jogs packing a pistol, and once shot a coyote on his morning run, proudly claiming he did so because it was after his dog.

Before the addition of Governor Parry, the crop of Republican hopefuls (not yet including Sarah Palin) did not stir wide interest. Frontrunner Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon, was rejected as a presidential candidate last time by Republicans; he is still not considered a good fit with the Midwesterners and Southern Christian fundamentalists who do the heavy lifting in the party. Tea Party heroine Michele Bachmann, a Congressional representative from Minnesota, is getting the kind of sophisticated media scrutiny that makes her stands on abortion, and gay and lesbian rights, plus her “submissive but not subservient respect” for her husband, and wacko take on the economy, subject to rejection — and often ridicule — outside her circle of support.

Perry backers say the governor’s record in creating jobs in Texas mark him as a serious contender for the White House, while national unemployment figures show Democratic President Barack Obama does not deserve re-election.

Perry’s critics point out that Texas stole many of its new jobs from California, has a huge number of minimum-wage employees, and spends little on education.

It remains true that the U.S. economy is failing many Americans. Conventional wisdom says a sitting president is vulnerable when unemployment rises during his term of office. So Republicans have reason to be cocky. But, to profit electorally from the economic turmoil and win the White House the Republicans first have to find a real-deal candidate.

Conservative public opinion is set by the Murdoch media: Fox News woes the people; the Wall Street Journal informs the establishment. The WSJ is not impressed by Governor Perry. On the day he declared, it ran an op-ed piece about the crony capitalism practices of the Perry regime whereby party funders got grants to start businesses that produced less than stellar results. Monday, a WSJ editorial loaded up and fired critical comments at his candidacy (as well as that of Bachmann).

It is easy to make fun of “pious” Perry for advertising a three day “pray for rain” period, and holding a well-attended (30,000 people) Houston prayer meeting around economic themes. Perry denies climate change, opposes gay lifestyles, signed legislation limiting abortion rights, and defends the death penalty. He also wins elections. The 61 year old is the longest-serving governor in the U.S. in a continuous role, and is closing in on the record for being the longest-serving governor of Texas. Currently, he serves as chair of the Republican Governors Association, which will be useful in drumming up high-placed support for his race.

Republicans want to beat Obama in 2012. Fairly or unfairly, Perry invokes memories of George W. Bush. While Bush played the “aw shucks home boy” he was a graduate of Yale (and a member of the exclusive Skull and Bones Society) with an MBA. from Harvard and came from a Connecticut patrician background, with serious links throughout the Eastern establishment.

Perry grew up on a tenant farm, studied agriculture at Texas A&M (where he was elected a yell leader) and served in the air force, as well as working in farming, before beginning a political career at age 33 as a Democratic state representative. While he succeeded Bush as governor, he has kept public distance from the former president.

Perry was an early supporter of the Tea Party. He appeals to fundamentalist Christian core voters. He favours states rights (famously once invoking secession as an option for Texas), low taxes, and opposes government “hand-outs” to the point of refusing $555 million in federal unemployment insurance money for his state, because he did not approve of that type of stimulus program.

A Republican governor from Texas has a big advantage in raising the major dollars (think oil) needed to win his party’s nomination for president. In 2008 Perry supported one-time New York mayor Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination. Perry needs Rudy to help him bring together Eastern backers, and raise the Texans national credibility quotient. 

The victor in the presidential election of 2012 will be the candidate who gets out his or her vote. That is the way American politics work. Something less than 50 per cent of the population bothers to vote every four years when the presidency is up for grabs. Something less than 40 per cent vote in the off-year elections, such as the one that brought the Tea Party Republicans to Washington.

Perry first has to win his party nomination. Barring the entry of a surprise candidate, he and Bachmann will slug it out to see which one of them goes straight up against Romney, a match Perry should win.

Unless Romney finds something magical to offer American voters on the economy, the Texas governor will be waiting for Obama in 2012.

Duncan Cameron is the president of and writes a weekly column about politics.