Rick Perry The Worst Candidate Of The 2012 Cycle?
Chris Cillizza names what he contends was the worst candidate of the entire 2012 election cycle:
Remember back to the late summer of 2011. Perry entered the race with what looked like a straight path to frontrunner status. He was a conservative’s conservative with a proven record of doing what he said in Texas. He was a fundraising powerhouse. He had a charisma that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney lacked. It was all there for the taking.
Until, it became clear that the idea of Rick Perry running for president was very different than the reality of Rick Perry running for president. While Perry began strong with a much-touted appearance in Waterloo, Iowa, that single event wound up being the best moment of a campaign whose trajectory was almost entirely downward.
There was the decidedly odd speech that Perry gave in New Hampshire. There was a series of debate performances in which Perry seemed (at best) thinly-versed on the issues of the day. And then there was Perry’s brain freeze in a November debate in which he simply could not remember the third federal agency he wanted to eliminate — a lock-up that he punctuated with his now-famous “Oops”. (Even these many months later, the Fix stomach churns watching the Perry clip; it has to be among the most awkward moments in the history of politics.)
While it was probably over for Perry before “oops”, it was definitely over for him afterwards. He finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses, sixth (with ONE percent) in the New Hampshire primaries and then dropped out of the race before the South Carolina primary. (In a final coup de grace of bad political judgment, Perry endorsed the presidential candidacy of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.)
The gap between what was expected of Perry and what he delivered coupled with incredibly high profile of the race in which he chose to flop makes Perry a clear choice for worst candidate of 2012.
It’s hard to argue with Cillizza’s assessment here. After all, when Perry entered the race in August 2011, at a Red State political gathering being held on the same day as the Ames Straw Poll no less, he was seen by many on the right as the candidate most capable of taking on the powerhouse Romney campaign. He had strong roots in the conservative wing of the GOP, a good relationship from the Tea Party, a ten year record as Texas Governor in which he was essentially able to roll over his opponents at each election, and the kind of connections that seemingly would make it easy for him to match Romney’s seemingly unbeatable fundraising schedule. Conservatives turned to Perry, who had initially demurred at the idea of running in 2012, because even by August 2011 it was blindingly obvious that none of the conservative alternatives to Romney already in the race would be capable of taking him on, and because they refused to even give a first look to potentially competitive candidates like Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson. So, for the right, Rick Perry really was the last, best hope to stop the Romney juggernaut before it gained so much ground in fundraising and organization that it would be impossible to beat.
At first, it seemed like the plan might actually succeed. From the moment that he entered the race up until the debates resumed in September, Perry steadily gained in the polls to the point where, by September 6th, he was the clear national frontrunner. Then, the debates happened. If Perry’s performances in these debates weren’t bad enough, there’s also the fact that he ended up hurting himself significantly when he not only defended his support for a Texas program that allowed certain students in the country illegally to be eligible for in-state tuition, but called those who disagreed with him “heartless.” It was at that point, I think, that his candidacy become doomed and, indeed, by the end of October he had surrendered the lead to a former pizza executive while his own poll numbers fell like a stone. The great conservative hope was crushed, and it was only a matter of time before he dropped out of the race.
So, yea, I think I’d agree with Cillizza that Perry was the worst candidate of the 2012 cycle. There are certainly other candidates, though. Michele Bachmann belongs on the list if only for her bizarre rants against Gardisil during the debates in September `11. I’d throw Herman Cain in there as well, although at least once can say that he provided some entertainment during the time he was in the race. Looking outside the Presidential field, it’s hard not to put Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock on the list, and as Cillizza notes Michigan Republican Pete Hoekstra ran one of the most incompetent Senate campaigns of anyone in the country. Any other candidates?