Religion Could Give Perry Edge Over Romney

Tuesday, 09 Aug 2011 04:50 PM

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Mitt Romney has been leading the polls for the GOP presidential nomination, but Rick Perry could change all that in a heartbeat.

Rick Perry, The Response, prayer, religion, president
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the big screen at "The Response" prayer rally he hosted Saturday in Houston. (Getty Images Photo)
Perry has been giving increasing signs that he will enter the race. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Perry would “all but announce his candidacy” in a speech Saturday in Charleston, S.C., and formally launch his bid as soon as next week.

And that could spell big trouble for Romney.

As governor of Texas, Perry will be able to appeal to Southern voters in a way the former Massachusetts governor cannot. And the evangelical Christians who had hoped to be voting for Mike Huckabee might flock to Perry instead.

Romney’s Mormon faith has made some conservative Christians uneasy. Perry, on the other hand, worships at an evangelical church and is fresh off hosting “The Response,” a daylong prayer rally that attracted 30,000 to a Houston stadium.

“That's the brilliance of what Perry has done here,” David Weigel wrote of The Response on Saturday in a Slate piece titled “And God Will Send Rick Perry.”

“He doesn't need to talk about politics, or do anything besides be here and understand this event. The religion is the politics,” Weigel said.

While Romney’s private-sector business experience has been one of his major selling points, Perry can point to his years of chief executive of a big state.

Romney also has been criticized for keeping a relatively low profile so far. Aides have promised that he will begin campaigning more intensely, but some say it may be too late for him to stave off what could be a Perry juggernaut.

"Overall, I don't think Romney has a lot of strong points to make against Perry," Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts University in Massachusetts, recently told Reuters. "If I was in the Romney camp, I would be worried sick.”

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