This entry is a rebuttal to Erick’s post on 8/17 exploring the reasons he believes, given the Perry entry, and Mitt Romney remains the front runner and it remains his “race to lose.” As I do with many of my posts – FULL DISCLOSURE – in 2008 I gave money to Mitt Romney’s campaign (he dropped out a week later). I also donated earlier to Fred Thompson’s campaign (summarily dropped out a week later . . . I also considered donating to Obama hoping the trend would continue). I do support and will donate to Rick Perry during the primary. I will support and will donate to the Republican nominee (assuming nether don’t freeze and it is not John Huntsman) in the general election. I believe Mitt Romney would be a decent president – definitely better than what we have now. I don’t hold Romney’s “flip-flops” against him as much as others. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
That out of the way, here’s my rebuttal and why I think Rick Perry is, indeed, the GOP front runner.
1. Building Expectations with Anticipation (apologies to Rev. Jackson)
I was about 99% certain that Gov. Perry was running the a couple of months ago when his campaign team came home to roost (apologies to Rev. Wright). Realistically, I don’t think it was very believable that a viable presidential candidate’s senior staff would resign en masse because the candidate takes and ill-timed vacation. Seasoned politicos have to deal with that kind of thing all the time. The only thing that made sense was the team could latch on a familiar, more viable candidate – their former boss.
At that moment, I think it started becoming increasingly evident that Perry was going to announce, and the expectations started to build. And I think those who gave it ample consideration came to the conclusion that he would be a serious candidate. Surveying the landscape, everything was leaning toward urging Perry in:
- Conservatives weren’t comfortable with Mitt Romney
- Sarah was making too much money . . . she didn’t need to run
- Perry had nowhere else to go in electoral politics other than the top job
- There’s no reason to believe Chris Christie would run
So began the expectations, and this can be a real momentum builder. There were a sizable number of Conservatives and more than a few Big Dog Republicans who were actively hoping Perry jumped in. To have great expectations can carry one a long way. Fred Thompson’s entire ’08 campaign was based on expectations. So were Wesley Clark’s in 2004. For the former, it just turned out he didn’t really want the job, and the latter just happened to be a terrible candidate. I don’t believe either of these apply to the Texas governor. Also consider that in being the “front runner” for so long, Romney can’t capitalize on excitement, momentum, or expectations at this point. In fact, inflated expectations may actually hurt the former governor.
2. Neither Money nor Karl Rove are an issue
Rick Perry may get ahead of Mitt Romney in the polling, but he cannot knock Mitt Romney out. Romney has too much money and can add more at will. Perry is, in fact, going to have to do a serious job of raising money online from the grassroots and high dollar donors.
Given Gov. Perry’s financial donor base, I don’t see how anyone can say that Romney has a tremendous advantage. Yes, Mitt has a huge and well-deserved personal fortune. He can spend his own money and Perry can’t. Yes, Mitt can raise tons of cash. But I can’t imagine the Koch brothers wouldn’t be full boat behind Perry, given the rest of the field. This offsets Romney’s ability to self-fund. Then it comes down to fundraising and getting the checks. I firmly believe that $10 checks and conservative netroots Paypal transfers will flow more frequently to Perry than Romney.
Regarding the Karl Rove factor, I think that his organization is also partially overcome by the Koch-bros. I honestly don’t think that President and Bush and Governor have a problem with each other. Obviously they have their differences and hail from starkly different backgrounds, but it seems both are plain-speaking mean-what-I-say-say-what-I-mean type guys. Obviously their political teams DO have a problem with each other. This isn’t uncommon within same-party political camps in administrations to have opposition and rivalry. In the end, rarely does this translate to actively working against the other candidate in a way that fundamentally harms the primary winner in a general election. Bush didn’t suffer from McCain’s body shots. Reagan didn’t suffer from Bush’s body shots. Obama didn’t suffer from Clinton’s.
The hostility is already there and Rove plays not just for keeps, but also to avoid his own marginalization should Perry be the nominee.
To me, this reasoning seems to support why Rove WOULDN’T go all-out to try and cause a Perry implosion. Rove and his organizations are political professionals – meaning they make their living from being relevant in politics. The most irrelevant position in politics is not to be in opposition to those in power, but to be out of favor with those in power on your side. There’s a very good chance Rick Perry is the next president. If Rove & Co. go all-out against Perry (or anybody else) and that candidate wins, then you can kiss the Hannity interviews, the book sales, the Twitter followers goodbye. Rove is smart, damn smart. I can’t believe that he or his folks would risk livelihood for the sake of servicing a vendetta against a candidate that lives on the same side of the ideological coin. As they might say in Texas – It just don’t make no sense (I’m allowed to say that since I live in Mississippi).
3. Misnomer of being a “regional” candidate
More so, we still don’t know if Rick Perry is going to be just a flash in the pan. He could be. He’ll have to work on positioning himself as someone more than a regional candidate, let alone a candidate without broad base appeal throughout the Republican Primary.
Rick Perry has been the chief executive of America’s second most populous state (argue-ably with the nation’s strongest economy). That’s pretty much akin to being a two-term governor of California in the 1960s and 70s (yes . . . I WENT there). It wouldn’t take much intellectual investment to make the case that a long-time Texas governor is less a regional candidate than a short-term New England one.
Let’s take a trip back across recent presidential electoral history. The 2008 election was truly an aberration – the milque toast planets aligned to have an erratic/geriatric senator versus a young inexperienced one who read better from a teleprompter. The latter happened to be handsome and African-American (Lord help me . . . YES I went THERE), and got the vote. Fine, but one election is one election. Anyone remember the last Democrat senator elected governor before Obama? John Kennedy – from Massachusetts. Anyone remember why he was able to be elected in one of the closest elections in modern history? He put a Texan on the ticket. (Incidentally he beat a California governor, if anyone wants to keep score). Since then our presidents have been:
Lyndon Johnson – Semi-elected Southern Senator
Richard Nixon – California Governor
Gerald Ford – Non-elected anomoly
Jimmy Carter – Southern Governor
Ronald Reagan – California Governor
George H.W. Bush – heir to California Governor
Bill Clinton – Southern Governor
George W. Bush – Southern Governor
Barrack H. Obama – First Term Senator & WT(letter that starts the name Frank)
Other than the surreal-ness that is #44, what sticks out about this list? For me, it is the over-representation of that word “Southern”. A “Southerner” (and Southern governor save Johnson’s tenure) has held the White House for approximately 51% of that period. That’s impressive if you consider there are eight major regions of the United States (New England/Upper Atlantic, Southeast, Upper Mid West, Mid West, Mountain West, Southwest, Pacific, Pacific Northwest).
This is all to say that just because Rick Perry has a natural base of support in Texas and the Southeast doesn’t preclude him from winning a national election or being a national candidate. Isn’t it more feasible to believe that Perry has more in common with the Scott Walker crowd in Wisconsin or the Chris Christie crowd in New Jersey than Romney does with the Haley Barbour crowd in Mississippi or the Bob McDonnell crowd in Virgina. Or the MICHELLE BACHMANN crowd in Iowa or Minnesota (yes, I went there to).
Going in somewhat a tangent, I would note that Rep. Bachmann is a national personality, but not necessarily an national candidate. For all of the good, positive points that the Congresswoman offers, we have to realize that the only people that have ever pulled a lever for her a concentrated in a small region of a mid-sized state. By collective vote counts, more folks have repeatedly pulled the lever for Rick Perry than have for Barrack Obama. Sure, its just Texas, but look at the makeup of that state. Other than probably California, does represent immense diversity. Whites, Blacks, Latinos, poor, rich, middle class, etc., etc. Perry has won EVERY election – more than a handful statewide. Sure, Texas is a Republican state but let’s not forget that Perry beat another popular Republican in the most recent primary in a three-way race WITHOUT a runoff. I simply fail to see where Perry wouldn’t meet the requirements of a candidate being able to draw a broad base while also maintaining a strong standing throughout the various GOP factions.
I think this is a good place to make a general comment about the concept of having a “broad based” candidate – what’s been talked about as the concept of the “big tent.” There are two ways to make your tent bigger – you can stretch and stretch and stretch your tent so that you bring its boundaries to people where they are, or you can make your tent so attractive that people journey there on their own and it builds organically. The former is the approach the GOP has taken post 1995. The latter is what resulted in the “Reagan Democrat” phenomenon and the Republican Revolution of 1994. I know when Erick mentions “broad based” support he isn’t talking about stretching the tent, but I just thought it a relevant and important point to make here. Between Romney and Perry, I don’t think there would be much debate between who is a “stretcher” and who is a “builder.”
4. Perry and Bachmann DO NOT have to fight over the same pool of voters
More so, Rick Perry will have to fight Michele Bachmann over a common pool of voters that Romney does not necessarily need.
Related to the point I tried to make in #3 above, Mrs. Bachmann has only been voted for by a small number of people in one region of a mid-sized state. I’m in no way knocking the Congresswoman’s ability or demeaning her intellectual capacity – on the contrary I think she’s one of conservatism’s brightest stars and the kind of asset that movement conservative that we need. But back in El Rushbo’s adopted hometown of Literaville, we should realize that much of Michele’s support among GOP primary voters is, indeed, a placeholder. Its the same vote that hoped Fred Thompson would step up in 2008, that wanted Pat Buchannan in 1996, and that has hoped Governor Christie would run now. For the sports fans out there, consider this analogy – when you know you can do something, but don’t believe that you will, you probably won’t. As much as I hate to say it, I think the same thing applies to Michele Bachmann among primary voters in 2011. But I also think the same probably applied to Ronald Reagan in 1976. And let’s face it, from what we know now, Rick Perry is way better that Gerald Ford (no disrespect to the late president).
Point of all this being that while on paper Perry and Bachmann are competing for the same votes, I don’t think that will be case when the rubber meets the road. And regarding another aspect of Michele – she’s a smart woman, and ambitious (which, regardless of what liberals would have you believe, isn’t an inherently bad character trait). Vice President Bachmann?
Confession – While cutting and pasting Erick’s line from above, I realized for the first time that Mrs. Bachmann only uses one “l” in her name. This has no relevance on any other point, just thought it was kind of funny. Should Rep. Bachmann be the VP on the ticket, I could totally see a Rachel Maddow expose of how she’s so stupid she doesn’t even know how to spell her own first name. m
5. Howard Dean was not going to be the nominee, Kerry and McCain were not on life support, neither apply to Romney
Around this time in 2003, it was a given that Howard Dean would be the Democrats’ nominee, and that John Kerry’s campaign was on life support. In 2007, people were already writing the postmortems on the Obama and McCain campaigns, . . .
To be fair this is a quote from RCP’s Sean Trende that Erick re-posted (thus the triple-indent versus the standard double). Maybe I’m wrong about this or looking at it from an awkward viewpoint, but I just don’t remember any point in time where it was “a given” that Metrosexual Doctor Howard Dean would be the Democratic nominee. GOP/Libertarians that right now believe Ron Paul will be the GOP nominee might be more of a parallel with those who thought Dean would get the nod back then. To the best of my recollection, the consensus at the time was that the Democratic side was in disarray that the smart money was that Saint Albert Gore Jr. would eventually materialize to save the party. Sooooooooo, what if Governor Rick Perry plays that role for our side, but has actually MATERIALIZED?
Sure John Kerry’s campaign was on life support and won the nomination that year. But he was running against . . . HOWARD DEAN. You can point to John Kerry as the guy that should have gotten the nomination, but I think that deep down in most people’s psyche – even if on a subconscious level – they can sense scum when it matters.
Senator McCain is probably the write-off/come back that is most difficult to explain. Yes, his campaign was considered dead and Rudy was considered to be the probable nominee. All I can maintain here – and admittedly the weakest part of my argument – is that 2008 on the GOP side was such a weird year that we have to count the nomination process on our side as an outlier.
So there you have my rebuttal and case why I believe that Rick Perry is the front runner, and some reasons why I’m supporting him for the Republican nomination for president of United States. I believe the man is a true conservative, ethical, honest, and can win. I will donate to his campaign in the primary and in the general. I will actively campaign for him, and overtly solicit other Red Staters to do the same. Thanks to all who have taken the time to read this entry and I look forward to your commentary.