President Barack Obama and Gov. Rick Perry will meet today at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the governor’s office announced late Friday.
Perry has been requesting a meeting in Texas with Obama for the past few weeks, stating he’d like to talk with the president about border security issues.
“I want to sit down with the president, matter of fact I’ll stand up, and share with him how to secure the border,” Perry said. “That’s the issue that’s important. If you don’t secure the border, if you have a revolving door at the border, then the 14th Amendment issues or immigration issues.”
Obama’s trip to Texas, which begins today in Austin, has been a nonstop political headache for Democratic gubernatorial challenger Bill White since news of it broke July 19.
Polling shows that Obama isn’t a popular political figure in the Lone Star State, and Perry has spent the past two months trying to connect White’s campaign to Obama’s political fortunes.
“Perry is certainly trying to tie Obama’s unpopularity in Texas to White,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “Fortunately, Perry practices politics in slow motion, so it’s easy to see what he’s trying to do.”
Jillson said that Obama’s low polling numbers may potentially cause political damage if Perry is able to link the president to White.
“[Obama’s] in the high 30s toward 40 in terms of job approval with the negative being in the mid-50s or so,” Jillson said. “White looks at [those numbers] and asks, ‘What good does it do me to be seen with Obama?’”
Nationalizing elections is a common strategy when the party in power in Washington isn’t especially popular, said Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University and nationally recognized polling expert.
“It’s what you’d expect — the president is enormously unpopular in Texas,” Stein said. “[Perry] is just trying to do to White what he did to Kay Bailey Hutchison. Interestingly, though, it seems to not be working.”
Stein said Perry’s strategy is part of a larger strategy Republicans are using to win nationwide.
“That’s basically the argument: Make the gubernatorial campaign part of a national referendum on the president,” Stein said. “That’s exactly what, not just Rick Perry, but every Republican running is going [to do].”
At a press conference July 30, White said he wouldn’t be meeting in person with Obama.
“I’m campaigning to be governor of Texas,” White said. “That means meeting the people of this state and listening to what they have to say. I’m available to talk to people by telephone.”
When pressed on whether he was running away from the national Democratic Party and the president, who’s considered the leader of the party, he refused to comment.
“I’m running for governor,” White said. “That’s what I’m running for.”