Perry to court conservatives in Virginia speech

Texas Gov. Rick Perry will use his day in Virginia to address conservatives at an influential Christian university, followed by a fundraiser with a man who could be his partner on the presidential ticket.

Perry will begin Wednesday with a convocation speech at the Christian-conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg. Then he heads to Richmond for a state party fundraiser with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

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McDonnell, who was elected in the swing state by a wide margin in 2009, became chairman of the Republican Governors Association after Perry left the position to run for president. The Virginia governor describes the Texan as a friend, and has been widely discussed as a possibility for the GOPs vice presidential nomination.

Perry has won the endorsement of two other GOP governors this week — Bobby Jindal (La.) and Brian Sandoval (Nev.) — but there has been no indication that McDonnell may follow suit. Last month he told The Washington Post he would not make a decision about a presidential endorsement until November or December.

The Texas governor is not the only GOP candidate who has sought out McDonnell: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney mentioned him as one of three people he would most likely pick as his running mate should he win the GOP nomination, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).


Liberty University, where Perry will start his day, was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the father of the Christian right movement. The campus has been visited by GOP candidates courting religious conservatives for decades, and Perry will be the fourth GOP candidate to stop by this year. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who has a daughter at Liberty, will speak there later this month.

Jerry Falwell Jr. now runs the school, and while hes not nearly as powerful as his father was, he still holds some sway with religious conservatives. The younger Falwell endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) in 2008. He had kind words for Perry on Tuesday, telling the Texas Tribune that he has admired him from a distance and describing him as one of the stronger candidates on social issues.

Perry is a well-known religious conservative. Most recently, he headlined The Response, a Houston prayer event in August that was described by organizers as a call to prayer for a nation in crisis. The event drew 30,000 people, but was criticized for being organized by a stridently anti-gay group that some organizations have classified as a hate group, and for excluding non-Christians.

He does not have a perfect social conservative record, however. Perry backed requiring all teenaged girls in his state to receive the HPV vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer, something for which other candidates criticized him in Monday nights debate.

Virginia will hold its presidential primary on Super Tuesday (March 6, 2012) — the day several other states hold their nominating contests. It will also be a battleground state in the general election, with President Obama looking to repeat his 2008 win of the state, which was the first time in 44 years Virginia had went for a Democratic presidential candidate.