The pool of Republican candidates just keeps growing, and voters are beginning to vet stances and pick sides. In an economy burdened by a $14.4 trillion debt and over 9% unemployment, Americans want someone new at the helm who can turn this sinking ship around. It’s almost funny how one man, who hasn’t even announced his candidacy or even said for sure he’s running, stole much of the thunder from the New Hampshire debate.

With his unabashed conservatism and long record of fiscal success, Texas Governor Rick Perry might just be the man for the job.

Why I’ll be volunteering for Rick Perry

Perry is certainly intriguing. A captivating speaker who can work a crowd like no other, Perry inspires unwavering enthusiasm among his supporters. His speech at the Republican Leadership Conference left the roaring crowd chanting, “Run, Rick, run!”

But he’s not just flash. Having served as a Texas State Representative, Commissioner of Agriculture, Lieutenant Governor, Governor for an unprecedented ten years, and Chairman of the Republican Governors Association for two terms, Perry certainly has the experience – both legislative and executive – desired in a presidential candidate. Throughout his career, he has been one of the most outspoken and effective champions of limited government, free market economic principles, and common-sense laws that benefit people, not politicians.

Thanks to the solid fiscal conservatism Perry has advocated in the past ten years as Governor of the Lone Star State, Texas was the last to enter the recession and the first out. Perry credits Texas’ remarkable economic stability to “keeping taxes low and regulations predictable, and maintaining a fair legal system.” Since he took office in 2001, Texas has created over 700,000 new jobs – more than any other state – and over a third of all new jobs in the past year. The country’s top exporter, Texas remains one of the largest economies in the world and is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other state. The state’s healthy job market is drawing folks from all across the country, attracted by the business-friendly environment and the lack of personal income tax. The state has a balanced budget, but it also has a $9 billion rainy day fund, just in case.

He’s also a strong social conservative, having recently introduced legislation requiring women seeking abortions to have a sonogram beforehand. Perry also backed bills to eliminate sanctuary cities and require photo identification to vote. His support for gun rights prompted one company to make a special handgun in his honor.

Perry’s Texas has a history of reforming and shrinking government and bureaucracy, from tort reform to a less intrusive regulatory environment. He’s not shy about defending the Tenth Amendment against challenges from the EPA, President Obama, and others who threaten states’ rights.

In short, Rick Perry is everything Barack Obama is not. And that’s exactly what voters want.

Concerns about Perry

Despite his unmatched economic successes in Texas, some have concerns about a potential Perry campaign. Is he electable? His strengths may help him win the Republican primary, but do those strengths become a challenge in the general election?

The left will slam Perry for almost everything he’s done, including for once being a Democrat (albeit a Texas Democrat, which 20 years ago was still pretty conservative). But one of Perry’s most contentious legislative initiatives this session is education spending. Scroll through any newspaper’s website and you’ll find articles slamming the governor for cutting education spending and costing thousands of teachers’ jobs. There’s a lot of misinformation about this out there: spending on public education is actually increasing. The increase is simply not as large as school districts had hoped for, as the state has had to cut the total budget back across the board.

Some on the right will slam Perry for being too moderate. There are two particular policy decisions that have drawn fire from conservatives and, while not exactly hot-button issues, seem inconsistent with his limited-government philosophy and threaten to erode his support base. In 2007, Perry signed an executive order requiring that all sixth-grade girls receive a vaccine to prevent HPV and cervical cancer, citing economic and health benefits. Though the order allowed parents to opt out, most opponents said mandating the vaccine stepped on parents’ toes and was a government over-reach into family decision-making. “I always stand for life,” Perry said without apology in defense of this initiative, which was overturned by the legislature.

Still others objected to Perry’s former plans to use eminent domain to create the Trans-Texas Corridor, a 4,000-mile shipping pathway including toll roads, rail lines, and utility lines. Intended to improve transportation of commercial goods with minimal expenditure of taxpayer money, the part public, part private infrastructure project sparked heated criticism. The plan was reworked into smaller projects in 2009 and scrapped in 2011 in response to public outcry over the intended acquisition of land, involvement of private companies, and potential for heavy tolls. Perry still defended the decision: “I don’t think it was a mistake at all…we had to come up with some concepts and some ideas of how to move people effectively and efficiently.”

And despite his continually putting pressure on the Obama administration to secure the Texas-Mexico border, not all conservatives in the state are pleased with the governor’s lack of support for Arizona’s tougher immigration stance, which he said “would not be the right direction for Texas.”

Perry is a controversial figure – you either love him or you really, really don’t. The term “Texas fatigue” is getting thrown around a lot – many people don’t want another good ol’ southern boy in the White House, another Bush (regardless of the fact that his policies don’t resemble Bush’s in the slightest). His southern drawl and almost brazen conservatism turn a lot of folks off; some say he’s just too Texas to take seriously. Even if he did win the Republican primary, some doubt he could win the general election.

The verdict

Love him or hate him, Perry injects excitement into everything he does. And though he may be as polarizing as President Obama, he gets the job done. Perry’s made a few mistakes – everyone has – but in the grand scheme of things, he’s succeeded far, far more than he’s sinned against conservatism.

As a proud Texan, I’ll admit I’m partial to my governor (and will gladly support him if he decides to run), but I’d say his chances are pretty good. He already has a diverse group of supporters, from the Hispanic House Republicans of Texas to twenty Arkansas state representatives and a fledgling Students for Rick Perry coalition, and more. Support is growing by the day.

Under Perry’s leadership, Texas has prospered like no other state. Isn’t it time we could say the same thing about America?