Perry has Obama worried. Besides, no president in history has ever been re-elected with over a 7% unemployment. EVER. ...

In many ways, Texas Gov. Rick Perry looks like a gift from central casting to a Republican presidential field still searching for its marquee attraction.

After all, Perry, who visited Southern California this week as he explores the race, is a big-state executive with a strong economic record and hard-edged fiscal and social views attractive to the party’s most energetic grassroots conservatives. “He checks so many boxes,” says Mark McKinnon, an Austin-based Republican consultant.

But one other element of Perry’s resume complicates that picture: he’s a Southerner—and specifically a Texan. As such his candidacy would compel the GOP to confront its ambiguous relationship with the South, especially since it would follow so soon after the tumultuous presidency of another Texas governor, George W. Bush.

In recent years, the South has operated both as a blessing and a burden for the GOP. The region, defined as the 11 states of the Old Confederacy plus Oklahoma and Kentucky, has become the cornerstone of the Republican electoral coalition. Yet as the GOP has become dominant across Dixie, and more closely identified with its uncompromising brand of social and economic conservatism, it has struggled in other regions, especially during the Bush era.

Under President Obama, the GOP has revived its fortunes outside the South, both in Congress and gubernatorial races. If Perry runs, Republican voters will be forced to decide whether they believe the party can hold those gains with a nominee who, like Bush, puts an unequivocally Southern cultural and religious face on their party..