Is Rick Perry the Fred Thompson of 2012? Is he the candidate who flirts with running for several months, finally announces and becomes the flavor of the month, only to burn out like a super nova in the white-hot scrutiny of a presidential race?
Predictions are always tough, but it’s beginning to look like even Republicans realize Perry is not presidential material.
It’s not just that his debate performances have been shaky, to say the least; rather, it’s that those performances have been weaker each time, and there is no reason to assume he will get better anytime soon.
What should be most distressing to the Perry camp is the carping comes not from independent or liberal analysts, but from his putative friends on the right.
Here’s a sample of comments following last week’s debate:
- William Kristol in the Weekly Standard: “No front-runner in a presidential field, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him.”
- Erik Erickson in RedState (organizer of the event where Perry announced his candidacy): “Rick Perry was a train wreck in this debate.”
- Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday: “Perry really did throw up all over himself in the debate.”
Lamely, Perry tried to deflect the criticism: “It’s not who is the slickest candidate or who is the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and best vision for our country.”
As Mitt Romney said to Perry in the last debate, “Nice try.”
Inarticulateness is not Perry’s only problem. As the instant front-runner, he has become the whipping boy – the “piñata,” as he phrased it – for attacks from his left and right.
Romney has lit into Perry from the left on Social Security, saying his calling the system a “Ponzi scheme” and “unconstitutional” scares seniors and demonstrates that the Texas governor is not electable. There is evidence this tactic is working, especially in senior-heavy Florida, which held a straw poll last weekend. It’s unclear why Perry finished a distant second in that event, since so few people took part, but certainly his Social Security position did not help.
It’s hard to imagine anyone getting to the right of Perry, but several of the debate participants did just that on two subjects: immigration and immunization against HPV.
Perry’s relatively moderate stands on those two issues might help him appeal to moderates and independents in the general election. But his recent multiple problems indicate that the Texas governor is not likely to get that far.
Again, Brit Hume: “Perry is about one-half step away from almost total collapse as a candidate.”
Where are you, Chris Christie? Jeb Bush?