Bumped forcefully off-message by Social Security, HPV and illegal immigrants getting state tuition, Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign struggles to get back to his keystone issue — job creation.
Yet his campaign indicated Tuesday that Perry won't be laying out a specific program of job creation for the nation for some time. That could push him past the issues making him vulnerable on the right.
Republicans in some of the early primary states say they're eager to know how Perry helped create the Texas job machine, but they aren't getting answers.
Six weeks into Perry's campaign, amazement over Texas' jobs growth has turned into a demand for details about his state record and his jobs plan for rest of the nation.
Sen. Mike Haridopolos is president of Florida's Republican-dominated State Senate. He said he is neutral in the race, but wants more information from Perry on jobs.
"Every Republican is for lower taxes, less regulation and tort reform... that's a gimme," Haridopolos said. "But what specific policies did the governor do as governor that helped turn around that state?"
At last week's debate, Fox News anchor Bret Baier asked Perry directly about jobs: "Where's your plan?" he said.
"Well, you'll see a more extensive jobs plan," Perry pledged.
But not yet.
For now, Perry's jobs plan for the future looks back at what he's broadly supported in Texas.
Because Perry's response lacks details for some GOP voters, it perhaps sounds well-worn to others, since Perry's jobs rhetoric hasn't changed in about two years.
In Orlando, Perry said a three-pronged plan would create jobs:
- "lower that tax burden on the small businessmen and women"
- "have a regulatory climate that is fair and predictable"
- "sweeping tort reform that we passed in 2003"
But here's his explanation on job growth during the January 2010 Belo Debate prior to the March GOP gubernatorial primary: "We keep our taxes low and our regulatory climate where it's fair and balanced. We don't allow for over-suing with the tort reform we passed in 2003," Perry said.
Asked when the candidate will release a jobs plan, Perry's campaign spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger told WFAA: "We will have more to discuss on this issue in the coming weeks and months as the campaign continues."
Following the Orlando debate, Haridopolos was among those asking when Perry will deliver.
"To detail what he did as governor to create those jobs — not in broad brushes, but what tax policies, what regulatory policies did he put in place," the Florida lawmaker said.
The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday that a Perry economic recovery and jobs plan is under review, but the draft is only a dozen pages, and revisions are under way to "add some weight to it," according to a Perry source.
The jobs plan of GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney is 160 pages long.