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National Press Corps a New Beast for Perry Campaign

Rick Perry talks with voters in Atkinson NH.
Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News
Rick Perry talks with voters in Atkinson NH.

Keeping the Texas Capitol press corps at arms length has worked for Governor Rick Perry during his time in office. When members of his press staff issue statements, they are sometimes not fully explained. Just repeated and repeated. Sometimes without context.

That's fine in Texas, where Perry's campaign research has shown his supporters don't care for the traditional media and have no problems with the governor skipping out on newspaper editorial boards or general election debates.

Those tactics aren't working so well on the national stage. 

In a speech Saturday in New Hampshire, Perry was asked how he would help strengthen Mexico's economy, in order to slow immigration. The governor ran over several ideas, including sending U.S. military troops across the border.

After the speech the campaign's travel press secretary, Robert Black, attempted to clarify the statement with members of the press. When asked about the troop comment, he said that as Presidents, Governor Perry would, "...look at all options to work with the Mexican government."

When he was pressed by the New York Times and Washington Post about whether Perry would ever send troops in without Mexico's consent - Black repeated the line... emphasizing "WOULD WORK WITH" the Mexican government.  Reporters were unsatisfied.

Here's how it played out in the Post's story:


Black said Perry’s intention is to work with the Mexican government, but he declined to specify whether Perry is amenable to sending troops into Mexico with or without the country’s consent. “If he were president he would do what it takes,” Black said. “The governor said, ‘I’m going to work with the Mexican government to do what’s necessary.’"

That lack of clarity from the Perry campaign left the door open to speculation about the implications for United States foreign policy with Mexico should the Texas Governor inhabit the White House.  

The Atlantic's associate editor Conor Friedersdorf wroteof Perry's comments, "Everything about this suggests a man it would be unwise to empower." Troy University political scientist Steven L. Taylor calledit "Perry's worst idea yet", saying it "suggests a naive belief that all that is needed to fix the drug problem is finding the right level of force."

Perry may have been able to skirt specifics in his many successful Texas campaigns. But in so doing, Perry and his team are now learning the hard way that your messaging muscle must be sufficiently trained to play well in the major leagues.   

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.