Love him or hate him — the people of Texas know Rick Perry. He’s the state’s longest serving governor.
But in Washington, where he’d end up if he successfully ran for President, Perry is almost an unknown. Even for Republican lawmakers at the capitol like Oklahoma Congressman John Sullivan:
"Rick Perry? I don’t know a whole lot about him. I know he’s a conservative and he’s been in politics a long time and has a conservative record."
Minnesota’s John Kline:
"I don’t know a whole lot about Governor Rick Perry’s record in Texas."
Missouri’s Jo Ann Emerson:
" I don’t like the idea that he wants to secede from the United States of America. That’s all I know about Rick Perry."
To be fair, Perry never really said he wanted Texas to secede. He just understood why others felt that way.
While Perry would have a steep climb on name recognition alone Washington political analyst Charlie Cook says that’s not Perry’s biggest hurdle
"I think the unique problem that Perry may have is whether the country is suffering from any sort of Texas fatigue. That Republicans have sort of been there and done that."
But some GOP congressmen from Iowa and New Hampshire, don’t think voters in their states see Bush when they look at Perry. That’s important because Iowa and New Hampshire are the first two big presidential tests and losing there often sinks a candidate.
Iowa Congressman Steve King thinks Perry’s tough stance on border security; his battle against the Environmental Protection Agency; and his religious conservatism play well in Iowa. King personally likes the way Perry takes target practice.
"I like the idea that a guy who goes out jogging shoots a coyote on the way. You know I took a lot of heat from PETA for popping the raccoon awhile back. So those things resonate."
Political analyst Cook says Perry’ big challenge in Iowa would be Michelle Bachman. She grew up in Waterloo, Iowa and she’s quickly becoming a darling of the same evangelical, limited government crowd Perry would try to attract.
"Rick Perry will not be competing with a Mitt Romney or a Tim Pawlenty until the championship game. I mean he’s going to be competing for this bigger, far more hard-edged conservative part of the party, which is huge — two-thirds of it."
As for New Hampshire, Republican Congressman Charlie Bass says his state might also be ripe for Perry. Bass says GOP voters are waiting for someone to break out of the pack.
"I didn’t hear anything in the New Hampshire debate that was any different than the press releases that the candidates have been sending out. And that’s what voters are saying at this point."
Perry’s likes to talk about how Texas under his leadership created the most jobs in the nation last year. But Cook says that message won’t be enough for a national audience.
"If he were to win the Republican nomination it would be that the Republican Party was buying what he’s selling. It won’t be because of any specific economic record in Texas, I don’t think."
For those walking the halls of Congress, Perry still has an opportunity to fine-tune his national message. Washingtonians, like long-serving Ohio Representative Steve Chabot, just don’t know the guy some Texans jokingly refer to as Governor Good Hair.
"You know I don’t know as much as I ultimately need to know."
But they’re curious and waiting to see if Perry’s the candidate that will shake up the GOP race for President.