I suppose it goes without saying that Perry is, at the very least, appealing to the 60% of those who view such a term negatively. But there is a little more depth to the reactions of socialism (my emphasis in bold):
Of these terms, socialism is the more politically polarizing – the reaction is almost universally negative among conservatives, while generally positive among liberals. While there are substantial differences in how liberals and conservatives think of capitalism, the gaps are far narrower. Most notably, liberal Democrats and Occupy Wall Street supporters are as likely to view capitalism positively as negatively. And even among conservative Republicans and Tea Party supporters there is a significant minority who react negatively to capitalism.
Ah ha! There we go – Perry was simply throwing out red-meat to the conservative base, in particular those who take over-heated rhetoric a little too seriously.
Now part of this is, I imagine, par for the course when describing Democratic politicians. This cycle of politicking has seen it’s fair share of socialism and communism thrown around, but almost always in the context of policies, not people. That’s simply because there is a kind of line in which serious candidates do not cross – it’s one thing to say candidate X wants to emulate certain European polices that are more socialistic, but quite another to ascribe candidate X with the same status as Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro. This is the behavior of someone who is not serious. Indeed, as I mentioned earlier today it is the mark of a man trying to regain legitimacy in the eyes of people like Bryan Fischer.