“Look up the definition of poaching,” Rick Perry told his press secretary Josh Havens. Perry was annoyed at being accused, in headlines and news stories and by Democratic governors, of trying to “poach” companies from blue states and carry them off to Texas, where he is governor.
SOMEDAY, ALL OF THIS WILL BE IN DALLAS: THE GOVERNOR IN MIDTOWN, JUNE 18
AP / MARY ALTAFFER
Perry didn’t think the word applies to his forays—to California in February, Illinois in April, and last week to New York and Connecticut. Sure, he wants to lure companies to Texas, bringing thousands of jobs with them. But “poach”? Nope, not that. It sounds sneaky, illicit, or, at best, would still be hostile conduct by one governor toward the state of another.
Havens tapped into an online dictionary and read the definition to Perry: “to take fish or game illegally.”
“Or jobs,” Perry said.
He felt vindicated. His high-visibility raids are unprecedented for a governor, but they’re clearly not against the law. Perry likes football analogies. He told Steve Forbes, the publisher of the eponymous business magazine, his efforts are “straight up, off right tackle.” He’s compared them to a hypothetical recruiting trip by Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. “He flies in by helicopter to a small town to recruit a high school football star. He doesn’t quietly come in under the veil of darkness.”
Following the session with Forbes last week, Perry hurried across Manhattan to meet with Donald Trump. You’re trying to “grab all our people,” Trump teased. “Just giving them opportunity,” Perry replied.
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After his freshman year at Texas A&M in 1969, Perry sold Bible-related books one summer in rural Missouri. “It took weeks before I sold my first books,” he says, but he learned salesmanship. “I look at myself just like a businessman trying to sell a product,” he says. Perry told Trump he’s selling the “opportunity” for business owners to flee the “high tax, high regulation, high litigation” environment of states like New York and thrive in a free market state that lets them keep more of the money they earn. Texas has no state income tax.
Perry is never bashful. When touting Texas as a safe haven for American business, he’s doing what no governor has done before. And he’s doing it with as much fanfare and buzz as possible. Some governors send letters, urging companies to pick up stakes and move. When Perry spent a day in Connecticut last week, he bumped into Dennis Daugaard, the Republican governor of South Dakota. Both were on economic missions. The Connecticut media latched on to Perry and ignored Daugaard.
Perry relied on Jeff Miller, a political consultant, lobbyist, and longtime friend, for advice in organizing the recruiting trips. Miller is a newcomer to Texas, having vowed to leave his native California if Republicans were crushed there again in the 2012 election. They were. He arrived in Austin on Christmas Eve.
The key to the Perry-Miller strategy is its focus on the big blue states (Connecticut was an afterthought) and advertising. Perry spent a meager $25,000 on radio ads in California, then benefited from Gov. Jerry Brown’s crack that the ad was “barely a fart.” Brown said the Perry visit was “not a story, guys.” But he made it one.
For his foray into Chicago, Perry spent $100,000 on radio spots. Again Democrats fell into his trap. Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel attacked Perry furiously. His visit became a major news story.
Perry and Miller figured New York would be different. A modest radio buy would be drowned out. So they spent $1 million on TV and radio spots that bragged about the business climate in Texas. The killer line: “If you’re tired of the same old recipe of over-taxation, over-regulation, and frivolous litigation, get out before you go broke.” Perry delivered the closer. “Texas is calling,” he said. “Your opportunity awaits.” The ads made a splash.