WASHINGTON – Rick Perry on Thursday became the latest Republican presidential hopeful to outline a plan to lure support among minority groups – particularly black voters – to the GOP.
“When we gave up on trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln, as the party of equal opportunity for all,” the former three-term Texas governor and long-shot 2016 contender said before roughly 100 journalists and students at the National Press Club.
As he did in 2014 stump speeches for conservative candidates in early presidential picking states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, Perry connected his Texas tenure to his presidential plans.
“I’m here to tell you that it’s Republicans, not Democrats, who are truly offering black Americans the hope for a better life for themselves and their children,” Perry said.
He began by telling about the death of Jesse Washington, a black, teenage farmhand, who was lynched in Waco, Texas, in 1916. Washington’s death became a well-known example of the racial divide Texas has suffered with in its history.
That was part of a broader pitch he made to introduce his economic plan, complete with direct digs at President Barack Obama’s handling of poverty and a handful of indirect jabs at fellow presidential aspirants, including former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and business magnate Donald Trump.
It’s now cheaper to do business in Dallas and Houston than it is in Detroit and Baltimore because of tighter business regulations in those areas, Perry argued.
Under his five-point plan, Perry said the American economy would be bolstered with reforms to the federal tax code.
Improved high school graduation rates and increased access to college education for African-Americans would also be put into motion under his presidency, he said.
Like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Perry also made pointed references to reworking federal drug-related sentences that disproportionatly affect black Americans.
“Americans that suffer from an addiction need help. They don’t need moral condemnation,” said Perry, who left office in February as the state’s longest serving chief executive.
Perry’s remarks Thursday mirror the new political brand he has sought to reconstruct since his ill-managed presidential campaign fell apart in 2012.
And as early February, Perry has sought out to cast himself as a more moderate and carefully crafted GOP alternative than he was during 2012, when he entered the race as a conservative firebrand.
A former U.S. Air Force pilot, Perry has also sharpened his foreign policy chops in recent months by studying policy programs and has beefed up his stances on a stronger foreign policy framework.
“I’m happy to live in a country with an African-American president,” Perry said, adding that poverty among African-Americans has increased during the two-term Obama administration. “But why is it today that so many black families feel left behind?”
“It’s time for black families to hold them accountable for the results,” he said of the Democratic Party.
Influential conservative factions from states such as Iowa and New Hampshire initially welcomed Perry with large crowds and open arms through the 2014 midterm election.
But as more Republicans jumped into the 2016 race, his fanfare in those states and nationally has languished. On some occasions, he has struggled to earn the press coverage necessary to keep his name recognition alive.
Perry now sits eighth among 15 Republican candidates at 4 percentage points, according to the most recent CNN/ORC poll. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leads the GOP pack in the poll with 19 percentage points.
He will travel to New Hampshire on Friday to meet with the state’s key Republican base.
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