Palin, Perry: Friendship with a '12 twist

Two major names remain on the 2012 bench. Each has a giant persona, comes from a giant state, and has a giant following. 

Yes, it’s Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

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Their political friendship, while somewhat recent, seems real — so real that it would be easy to imagine one endorsing the other if only one of them would jump into the race. That would give an instant charge of credibility and buzz to the endorsee, and likely set either Palin or Perry as the Tea Party favorite.

Their friendship goes back to their days as governors, but their political alliance first emerged in the 2010 Texas GOP gubernatorial primary, when the incumbent, Perry, faced a fierce challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

National politicians rarely relish involving themselves in fractious primaries, but Palin did so early on, endorsing Perry wholeheartedly.

“He does what is right regardless of whether it is popular. He walks the walk of a true conservative,” she wrote, and, in a nod to their shared cultural populism, added, “He sticks to his guns — and you know how I feel about guns!”

Her endorsement was significant. Hutchison is one of the nation’s most powerful female Republican politicians, yet Palin chose Perry’s conservatism over Hutchison’s status as a potential Mama Grizzly.

But she didn’t just endorse him; she traveled to Texas to stump for him in a splashy campaign event on Super Bowl Sunday. The Associated Press reported that more than 6,000 fans filled a stadium to see Palin take the stage.

Perry, ever the appreciative host, praised her effusively, providing as good a description of the former governor as she herself might make.

“I doubt there is another public figure in our country who gives liberals a bigger case of the hives,” he said. “At the very mention of her name, the liberals, the progressives, the media elites, they literally foam at the mouth.”

When it came time for Palin to speak, she noted the “really sweet connections” between the two states, their “independent, pioneer-spirited people” and their similar GOP primary electorates. Perry sealed that connection at the event by handing Palin a certificate making her an “honorary Texan.”

Perry went on to defeat Hutchison easily in the primary.

Palin’s and Perry’s mutual admiration has extended beyond the 2010 midterm election. Soon after being elected for his record third term as Texas governor, Perry released a book, Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America from Washington.

Palin tweeted that she was “anxious” to read it and, indeed, praised the book at a post-

election event both attended on behalf of a pro-life group.

“The governor is talking good stuff about this Lone Star State,” she said, adding that he was trying to “protect” his constituents from Washington, D.C. 

Philosophically, the two share similar values, favoring small-government conservatism with a strong emphasis on states’ rights and populist rhetoric.

The two share another similarity: contempt for the mainstream media. Palin’s grievances with the Fourth Estate are well-known, but Perry’s are as significant. In his 2010 reelection bid, he refused to meet with any editorial boards from the Texas newspapers.

His spokesman explained to the Austin American-Statesman: “In the final weeks of the campaign, a better use of the governor’s time is to continue traveling the state talking to Texans about issues that are important to them.”

Frankly, Perry didn’t have a lot of use for the media — not after two terms as governor — nor did the media have much use for him, as most major papers endorsed his GOP rival in the gubernatorial primary and Democratic rival in the general election.

He further enraged the media when he spoke at a national editorial writers gathering last fall and wouldn’t take questions, prompting the group’s “stunned” president to send Perry a letter accusing of him of “disingenuousness” and going back on his word.

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The fact is, Perry was so far ahead that he didn’t need the press, and he romped to a huge win in his reelection bid. Palin likewise engenders anger from some in the press because she sells books and packs halls even while shunning interaction with all but a few conservative outlets. Each seems to thrive on the conflict, and that approach is further evidence that they’re not just philosophical allies, but also temperamentally kindred.

It’s still too difficult to tell whether one or both will jump in the race. Perry seems more likely, and if he does, Palin might opt out and choose to back her friend.

In fact, during the midst of her recent bus tour, Palin brought Perry’s name up again, unprompted, telling a group of reporters in Baltimore, “I think he would be a fine candidate. We have a lot in common.”

She added: “I really like him.”

Heinze, the founder of GOP12.com, is a member of staff at The Hill.