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Primary Adversaries Wary of Prairie Perry

October 4th, 2011 2 comments
Rick Perry

Rick Perry's entrance into the GOP presidential race has screwed up a lot of candidates plans, including Rick Perry's.

Since I haven’t written in a while, I wanted to comment on the continuing craziness that is the GOP nomination horserace. So far, Rick Perry entering the race has really shaken things up, and provided a much more interesting dynamic. When I first heard his name being floated over the summer, I did some snapshot research on him and believed he could easily be a serious contender, and what has unfolded so far has not surprised me at all.

First of all, Perry entering the arena was bad news for just about every other candidate. As I’ve mentioned before, governors have a major leg up in primary battles, and before Perry, Romney was the only governor with any name recognition in the race. Perry’s blunt folksiness and religiosity also has the potential to play really well in Iowa, which immediately had other candidates sweating. In fact, Tim Pawlenty, who had bet his entire campaign on Iowa, threw in the towel right after Perry announced his candidacy. I predicted in an earlier post that a flashy, socially conservative populist could really take off in Iowa, and sure enough, Michele “Crazy Eyes” Bachmann did just that, but only to see her support evaporate when Perry entered the race. Bachmann fell from 2nd place in polls to the back of the pack.

Recently however, the big news has been the epic fail of Rick Perry’s debate skills and the toll it took on his campaign. See, on paper Rick Perry was the perfect GOP candidate – cocky, conservative, and Christian – but he had never campaigned on the national stage before or had himself put under the microscope. As his campaign team should have predicted, all the other candidates, suddenly threatened by this Texan’s presence, attacked him relentlessly in the debates and he simply did not hold his own.

Now, I still believe that Mitt Romney will be the eventual candidate, based on the formula I explained in my Mitt is it post back in May 2010. However, I also believe that Rick Perry isn’t out yet, and there are very good reasons why he may continue to be one of Romney’s most formidable foes. I summarized them in this Venn diagram:

Republicans are searching for a candidate that hits that sweet spot in the middle, but so far Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are as good as it gets.

Insider support is extremely important in the GOP, and a relative newbie who hasn’t waited his or her turn (like Barack Obama) would almost never make it in a GOP presidential nomination race. Therefore, the perfect candidate for the GOP would be one that has insider support, but is also a governor (because of the bias I’ve pointed out), a good debater, and crazy.

Crazy is important, because that’s about where the GOP base is right now. For simplicity’s sake, I assessed craziness as the likelihood of a candidate trying to make a connection between homosexuality and illegal immigration and/or Al Qaeda.

As you can see from the diagram, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum don’t have much chance of getting nominated because they only fall in one circle. Tim Pawlenty, for the record, would have gone under Governors and Insider Support, but that’s it.

So Rick Perry and Mitt Romney really are as good as it gets right now. And since NJ Gov. Chris Christie just announced today that he wouldn’t run, I don’t think very much is going to change. But that brings me to my next point…

Herman Cain

After Perry's breakdown in the polls, Herman Cain has surged to top tier status nationally, despite low name recognition. Still, the radio talk-show host & former CEO of Godfather Pizza has a lot to prove. (Photo: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore).

Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain – as you can see, they make it into two circles, which makes them the next most interesting. And as if to vindicate my evaluation, guess where Rick Perry’s support went when he fizzled in the polls… That’s right: Herman Cain, the pizza guy, who just shot into second place in polls as of yesterday and today. He also won first place in the Florida straw poll last week. Like many, I’m still skeptical that Cain can make it over some major hurdles. He’s a great campaigner and debater, but his race and lack of experience will prove awkward at best.

I expect a lot more volatility before this baby’s over. That’s for two simple reasons: the GOP is not fully satisfied with any candidate (no one in the center of the Venn diagram), and the media enjoys unpredictable twists and turns.

So that’s my last point: don’t underestimate the influence of the media. Ron Paul really ought to have been considered a serious contender at different times based on polling, fundraising, and intensity of support. However, the media has made a much bigger fuss over spikes in the numbers for Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain than they have for Paul in the past. This could change, as the media looks for more interesting narratives to keep attention.

Through it all, though, I expect Mitt Romney and Rick Perry to be the only real candidates contending for the top spot.

Anyone feel differently?