If you hadn’t seen the latest polls, anyone watching the last 2 Republican presidential debates could tell that Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is now the clear frontrunner in the battle to take on Obama in 2012.  Perry’s stance on a number of issues became fodder for the debate with Michele Bachmann being front-and-center.

Ron Paul, a Tea Party favorite and representative of the 14th Congressional District of Texas zeroed in on Perry’s immodest claims of job creation as being due, in part, to growth in size of government while Paul’s taxes more than doubled. Truth or Ron Paul’s attempt to paint Perry’s performance as less than “Conservative?”

Politifact researched Paul’s claims and found 1 out of every 4 new jobs created in Texas during Perry’s tenure were, in fact, government jobs. As a share of total jobs government went from 16.4 percent to 17.5 percent during Perry’s administration. So there is some truth to Paul’s charges that won’t sit well with Tea Party members.

The Dallas Morning News reported that in 2006, Texas was facing a judicial mandate to change the unconstitutional way it funded public schools, mostly through property taxes. Under Perry’s leadership, a tax swap was created that cut school property taxes by up to one-third. To pay for that, Perry signed a bill that nearly tripled the amount Texas collects from businesses. The tax swap created a net tax decrease, but the new business tax coupled with one added to tobacco still counts as the largest tax increase in Texas.

Since Ron Paul still maintains a medical practice in Texas it’s quite possible that Mr. Paul’s taxes went up after Perry’s 2006 new business tax, however it is highly unlikely that Paul’s taxes doubled unless his business and personal income increased a like amount. More importantly, the number of businesses that relocated to Texas due to its pro-business climate during Perry’s 10 years in office would tend to dispute Ron Paul’s claims. Nonetheless any validity to Paul’s claims creates a chink in Perry’s armor.

Perhaps the big claim against Perry was highlighted by Michele Bachmann during the last debate and that was Perry’s signing of a bill that required all girls 12 and over receive the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination unless the child’s parents “opt-out.” The news landed right into Bachmann’s wheelhouse as a strong pro-life and anti-government authority candidate. Perry’s woes were accentuated when Bachmann insinuated that Perry signed the bill, in part, because the manufacturer of the vaccination donated to his last campaign.

Perry clearly incensed by Bachmann’s accusations spilled the fact that Merck donated $5,000 to his campaign when he routinely raised $30 million in his re-election campaigns. Perry stated he was offended by Bachmann’s assertions that he could be bought for $5,000. Still Bachmann got the best of the exchange by stating she was offended that 12 year-old girls would be forced to be vaccinated if their parent’s failed to exercise the opt-out provision of the bill.

Perry knows that his signature on the HPV bill will cause him significant problems with the right-wing of the Republican Party and offered that if he were to do it again it would be done differently. A look of pain upon Perry’s face showed that Bachmann had hit a nerve. If RomneyCare is Mitt Romney’s weak spot there is no question that the HPV bill is Perry’s number 1 liability.

Being the frontrunner is never a comfortable position for a presidential hopeful as Mitt Romney is well aware, and the darts have only begun to fly. Yet to be exposed are Perry’s positions prior to his conversion to the Republican Party in 1990 and his support of Hillary Clinton’s health care bill in 1993.

As with all presidential candidates Perry’s got a few skeletons in the closet and you can be sure the other Republican candidates will find each and every one; and any not found by his compatriots will surely be uncovered by the Democrats. Until and unless anything more significant is uncovered, choosing to mandate a vaccination for children with an opt-out rather than providing the vaccinations with an opt-in will remain his biggest challenge. So far Perry has failed to offer up a good explanation and undoubtedly his campaign staff is in full panic mode seeking an answer that will put the issue to rest.

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