By Alex Wukman
It looks like the Free Press was a little too early to the Rick Perry for President party. In the few months since we last blogged about it Rick Perry’s presidential ambitions have become the obsession of Texas’ political press. Despite the, easily predicted, last minute resolution of the debt ceiling ‘crisis‘,which will soon be replaced with another manufactured controversy that will inevitably be blown out of proportion, writers throughout the country have been devoting an awful lot of time to Perry. There’s so much being written about Rick Perry that the Texas Tribune’s aggregator has become the Rick Perry Wire and the Austin American Statesman has created a special Rick Perry section on their website. Sadly none of this is surprising. For months Perry has been engaged in an endless game of “will he or won’t he” that has been kept going by people who are paid to leak information to the press.
I’d like to be the first to say Enough is Enough. Perry just needs to declare, which he probably won’t do until after Labor Day, so Rick Casey can get back to reporting on criminal justice instead creating his own modestly crafted modest proposal. I don’t want to read about how Rick Perry “hasn’t been vetted” on the campaign trail or how Perry supporting Super PACs are buying ads in Iowa. And I really don’t want to have to slog through armchair commentary on how Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are “frenemies.” Especially since it’s all meaningless. Even if Rick Perry announced tomorrow it won’t do any good. He’s been too hands-off in the hands-on states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Perry’s team says they want to compete everywhere, but they have to know that their man won’t be able to trot out his Evangelical credentials in secular New Hampshire and swooping in like a conservative rock star doesn’t work in retail politics driven Iowa. Perry will probably be able to ride his white, Southern extremist ties to a good showing in South Carolina and five or six of the Super Tuesday states; but beyond that it’s a gamble. It’s highly doubtful that an establishment candidate like Perry will be able to carry Libertarian friendly Western states like Nevada. It’s worth remembering that establishment figures in the Nevada Republican party suspended their 2008 state convention because it had been taken over by the Ron Paul campaign.
Another of Perry’s main problems is that he’s trying to win the nomination of a fractured party that seems to be actively trying to destroy itself. Perry’s team is faced with the difficulty of building a winning coalition between social conservatives, anti-immigration activists, Libertarians, TEA Partiers, corporate interests and self-proclaimed deficit hawks–who do an abrupt about face as soon as there’s a war. Next year will be the first truly national campaign after the Republican civil war of 2009-2010; an election cycle that saw anyone with any actual experience labeled a RINO. As the ongoing legislative fights have shown Republicans are more than willing to destroy the village to save the village, and vote anyone who disagrees with them out of office. Perhaps Perry’s biggest problem isn’t that he’s late to the poker game of presidential politics, and may have given all the best cards to Romney; nor is it that he’s TEA Party. Perry’s problem may be that he isn’t TEA Party enough.