Rick Perry: Going Big, Not Going Home

Two weeks ago nearly everyone had written off Rick Perry. His poor debate performances and embarrassing gaffes had made even his most ardent supporters avert their eyes. But then Herman Cain began to self-destruct and while the media and pundits were busy with the postmortem examination of the Cain campaign, the Perry camp was busy finding a way to get back in the game.

Fortuitously (or perhaps providentially), Perry had hired members of FL Gov. Rick Scott’s media team just a couple weeks before the disastrous Michigan debate. It was very clear that from the minute Perry uttered the now infamous “oops” his team was in full damage-control mode. It was almost as if Perry had been prepped on how to respond in the event a gaffe occurred (which isn’t a bad strategy for any candidate in such a high-stakes game). Most people agree that the aftermath of Perry’s brain freeze was handled as well as it could have been. He faced it head on and tore the bandage off with a smile and the right mix of self-deprecating humor and Obama bashing.

Of course, lost in all of this mess was Perry’s bold flat tax proposal, which has received some pretty high marks and because it is optional, would actually have a chance of winning bipartisan support sometime this decade. He saw Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan and raised ante by proposing a similar plan without the sales tax that most people disliked about Cain’s plan. It’s been endorsed  by Mr. Flat Tax himself, Steve Forbes and has been praised by many other conservatives.

Now, he’s raised the ante again by threatening to blow up the D.C. Beltway Bureaucracy. It’s a desperate move, to be sure. It won’t win him any friends in the D.C. cocktail party circuit – Karl Rove and Company must certainly be burning up their smart phones threatening to ruin the careers of anyone who’s considering sending money to Perry.  Perry said this in his “Uproot and Overhaul Washington” speech in Iowa on Tuesday:

“It is time to tear down the monuments to bureaucratic failure, and in their place build a smaller, more efficient federal government that puts the American People first. The Washington Insiders won’t address Beltway decay, they won’t try a totally new way, because they like things as they are. The lobbyists make their living on protecting corporate loopholes, and securing earmarks for the special interests they represent. The status quo is good to the Washington Insiders. It’s good to the overpaid bureaucrats. It’s good for the power-players who can trade favors to build fiefdoms of influence. While the rest of America remains mired in the ruin caused by Washington’s out-of–touch, big government economic policies, Washington is doing fine. In fact, the Washington metro area is now the most affluent metropolitan area in the country. That’s because all the lobbyists, contractors and over-paid czars and bureaucrats haven’t suffered one bit in the worst economy in 70 years. While Main Street’s windows have been boarded up, the cash continues to flow to Wall Street financiers and Beltway profiteers.”

[Ouch…this is probably very awkward for Newt]

In addition, he wants to limit the terms of federal judges, make congress a part-time job and cut salaries and budgets, privatize the TSA and Freddie and Fannie, and get rid of the czars and several federal agencies, including, of course, the Department of Energy. He will defund Planned Parenthood and also vows he “will fight in every corner of this country for a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.”

If you read the transcript of the speech and pictured it being delivered by Reagan or even Marco Rubio you’d probably stand up and salute and cheer. Or at least give a mini fist pump while sitting on the couch with laptop. This is exactly the message we conservatives want to hear:

“The issue this election is not whether Washington is broken, but how we go about fixing it. There are two approaches, and even my own party is split. There are some who want to tinker with the status quo. They want to work within the current system to achieve marginal change. Then there are those who believe, as I do, that Washington is too broken to be fixed by tinkering on the margins. I do not believe Washington needs a new coat of paint, it needs a complete overhaul. We need to uproot, tear down and rebuild Washington, D.C. and our federal institutions.”

But then….oops…it was delivered by Rick Perry. We hold our breath when he opens his mouth because we’re not sure what…if anything…is going to come out.

But then again, he’s been delivering strong performances on radio and TV. He’s warm, authentic, and likable in those formats and contrary to the debate performances, he appears to be knowledgeable and competent. And as Aaron Gardner pointed out yesterday, he’s going after Obama in an excellent new ad running in Iowa.

This brings us back around to Perry’s media team, which is sinking $1 million into a national ad campaign on Fox News. In addition to the “That’s Pathetic” ad, they’ve been running a very effective “I’m a doer, not a talker” ad:


“If you’re looking for a slick politician or a guy with great teleprompter skills, we already have that–and he’s destroying our economy.  I’m a doer, not a talker. In Texas, we created 40% of the new jobs in the entire country since June of 2009, and we cut a record $15 billion from our state budget.   Now they say we can’t do that in Washington. Well, they’re wrong, and they need to go.”

It’s running up to ten times a day and, combined with the populist message of the ad calling Obama’s laziness comment “pathetic” and saying his policies are “socialist,” it’s a very effective campaign.  There’s another ad in the series, this one focusing on Congressional insider trading:

All of this adds up to a candidate who is still in the game. Perry’s poll numbers are still tanking but this race has been like the weather in Ohio: if you don’t like it, wait an hour and it will change. Newt is the flavor of the week, but his many years on the payroll of Freddie Mac will hurt his poll numbers and certainly his credibility when criticizing the black holes of Fannie and Freddie. I have serious doubts that he will survive the onslaught of ethics questions, let alone the longstanding moral questions.  This will leave an opening for Perry to claw his way back into the race.

Of course we’re all are thinking ahead to a debate between Obama and Perry and we’re cringing. Visions of 5-point plans that suddenly turn into 2-point plans and that awkward moment when Perry realizes he has too many fingers on his left hand. But there’s also the possibility of a debate between a straight-talker and an elitist Ivy League demagogue. Results vs. Rhetoric. Perry could even use a Reagan-style “There you go again” line effectively against Obama’s predictable talking points. I’m not saying Perry could “win” a debate against Obama in the technical sense,  just saying it might not be a total disaster.

I’m not at the point of supporting Perry, but I like him a lot better this week than I did two weeks ago. He has proven that he can put together a quality team and manage a crisis effectively. (The fact that the crisis was self-imposed is, of course, a serious concern.) More important, of all the candidates, he has put forth some of the boldest proposals we’ve seen for reform of the tax code and the way things are done in Washington. That at least, affords him a second look.

Cross-posted at Bold Colors