I try not to wade too deeply into presidential politics until the first real contests are held in January. But the Republican field has been quirky, and I found myself perusing early polls over the weekend to see what was what.

As you may have heard – even if you don’t follow these things closely 14 months before the election – Texas Gov. Rick Perry has surged ahead in many polls after announcing his candidacy the prior weekend.

Perry is up by 2 points in Iowa and 3 in Ohio. He’s up by 11 points in a national Gallup Poll and beats Obama in Florida by a point in a new Mason-Dixon poll.

It’s interesting, but not surprising, that the GOP field has steered clear of health care issues except to slam the health care reform law and promise repeal. Even Mitt Romney is onboard with this because although the Obama plan was based loosely on his Massachusetts model, Romney can make the case that this is only something that should be done on a state-by-state basis.

Republicans aren’t coalescing around a health care plan because no matter what they would propose, it would be controversial. The only thing that truly makes sense is to increase the number of medical providers, but good luck getting the American Medical Association to go along with it. So it’s simpler and safer to say nothing.

Somewhat along these lines, Perry claims Texas has been attracting more physicians to the state because of malpractice reform. He claims 21,000 new doctors have opened up a practice thanks to a friendlier law on this issue, passed in 2003.

The only problem is, that’s not true, according to a report published Friday on the website PolitiFact.com.

Although there are more physicians licensed to practice in Texas, not all of them are practicing in the state, according to PolitiFact. The actual increase between 2003 and 2011 is 12,788, and most of that was due to population increase.

Taking into consideration the population increase, the actual number of physicians now practicing in Texas because of malpractice reform is 1,608, but perhaps as many as 5,000 if you include administrators and other licensed physicians who don’t see patients.

But PolitiFact also points out that in the nine years the before the new rules went into effect, the number of new physicians grew twice as fast as the population growth.

So, the Perry claim makes a good splash but the statistics are not particularly meaningful.

 * * * * *

We hear a lot these days about the philosophy of Ayn Rand, proponent of 100 percent pure capitalism and author of Atlas Shrugged.  (I’ve tried twice to get through this book but found the story and prose a bit stilted. But then, I’m more of a Michael Connelly-Randy Wayne White-Elmore Leonard-guy.)

But I did find this 1959 Mike Wallace interview with Rand very interesting and I’d recommend it regardless of your politics. A link to it was posted over the weekend by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism.

There are bound to be a lot of opinions on it and the comments following the post are pretty interesting. Rand is far more influential in death than she ever was in life.

Photo: Tea Party protester in Chicago, 2009, holding a sign that refers to one of the key characters in Atlas Shrugged. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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