Rick Perry’s Bad Rollout

The first two months of Rick Perry's campaign are a good example of why it helps to start a Presidential campaign early.

Kevin Drum catalogs some of the things that have happened to Rick Perry since he announced his candidacy on August 13th:

  1. Suggested that maybe Ben Bernanke should be lynched.
  2. Declined to back off his contention that Social Security is an unconstitutional Ponzi scheme.
  3. Called climate change a “contrived phony mess” that was cooked up by scientists who have “manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling in to their projects.”
  4. Pissed off the conservative base by defending his decision to (in Michele Bachmann’s immortal words) give “government injections” to “innocent little 12-year-old girls.” Said Perry condescendingly: “What I don’t get is what parents don’t understand about an opt out.”
  5. Further pissed off the conservative base by suggesting that if you disagree with his policy on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, “I don’t think you have a heart.”
  6. Mangled a prepackaged debate attack on Mitt Romney so badly, and then followed up with a statement on Pakistan so inscrutable, that even his supporters started to wonder if he has a three-digit IQ.
  7. Proposed that U.S. troops should be used to fight Mexican drug lords. In Mexico.
  8. Had to defend himself against revelations that his family leases a hunting spot called “Niggerhead.”

Now, it’s arguably true that some of these mis-steps have hurt Perry less than others. It’s unclear, for example, that Republican primary voters are really punishing Perry for his stance on climate chance. However, I don’t think there’s any question that things like his position on Social Security, the way he tried to defend his actions as Texas Governor regarding Gardisil and in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, and his bad debate performances have caused him to fall from grace in the eyes of many in the GOP. It’s unclear what impact the last two items might have simply because they just became public this past weekend, but it’s pretty clear that they’re probably not going to help.

The impact on Perry in the polls has been substantial. Inside of about two weeks, he went from instant front-runner to falling star:

The most recent national poll had Mitt Romney in the lead, Perry second, and Herman Cain a surprising third. Perry is also showing weakness in statewide polling in important early primary states like Iowa and Florida. If that’s replicated in other polling likely to be released over the coming week or so, then Perry will have paid a steep price for so many fumbles in such a short period of time.

As I noted last week, Rick Perry is hardly out of the picture here. He’s still got a lot of appeal for the GOP’s conservative base, and he still seems to be more viable than any of the other Tea Party candidates in the race. Whether these hunting lodge revelations have an impact on that perception among Republicans is something only time is going to tell, but unless that happens he is still going to be one of the two top contenders in the race for the GOP nomination as we head into the final three months before voting begins. Of course, he’s going to have to address some of the mistakes he’s made already, and he’s going to have to make sure he doesn’t make very many more between now and then, otherwise he’s just likely to reinforce the doubts that some Republicans seem to have developed during September’s month of debates.

As I noted this morning, this is what happens with a candidate who enters the race late. There’s much less of a margin for error, and much less time to bounce back from an inevitable setback (nobody has ever run a perfect, error-free campaign for President). Perry entered the race in August and immediately became a star mostly because of the reputation he’d developed over the the past couple years among the Tea Party crowd and movement conservatives. When he actually got on the national stage and appeared to have feet of clay, some of that support drifted away as people began to have second thoughts. There’s still time for him to repair the damage, of course, but not as much as there would have been if he’d gotten into the race in May or June.

This is why people sitting on the sidelines like Chris Christie and Sarah Palin would do well to think hard before jumping in the ring. You’re taking a massive risk, you’re going to make some mistakes along the way, and first impressions are hard to correct (just ask Sarah Palin). With the first votes of the 2012 race likely to take place as little as three months from today, the idea that even someone that has had a lot of media exposure over the years can just jump in the race and expect everything to go easily is simply absurd. It’s too late.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    Actually…I think he didn’t wait long enough.
    Just like Palin, once people got to know Perry, he fell to earth. Politicians like them need to jump in at the last possible minute…so the election is held before the blazing meteor burns out and falls to earth in a pile of dust.

  2. ponce says:

    Perry’s decline has more to do with just how freakish the views of modern Republican “conservatives” are than poor planning,.

    The more Americans hear them talk, the less they like them.

  3. @ponce:

    Your hypothesis falls apart upon the fact that the people being polled about Perry are Republicans. If they were truly as evil as your caricature claims he should be walking away with the nomination by now.

  4. Moosebreath says:

    Doug,

    “If they were truly as evil as your caricature claims he should be walking away with the nomination by now. ”

    Not necessarily. Several of the more damaging items have come from Perry not being sufficiently pure for the radical conservatives in the party. Drum’s items 4 and especially 5 fall into that category. Worse yet, his defense of the in-state tuition program for illegal immigrants as opponents being heartless came off sounding like he was wooing readers of The Nation or some other liberal to leftist group, not the Republican base.

  5. ponce says:

    If they were truly as evil as your caricature claims he should be walking away with the nomination by now.

    ???

    Perhaps you could show me where I said Republicans are evil, Doug?

  6. @ponce:

    Freakish. Evil. it’s all the same thing and it all boils down to the fact that, much like many people on the right, you simply cannot accept that people can disagree with you with being crazy or evil.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Republicans are in a wonderfully tight spot: the guys they might love can’t win. The guy who might be able to win, they can’t love. The GOP’s best shot is a candidate who for all practical purposes is just a Mormon Obama: a dreaded pragmatist. Their other choices, the ones they could conceivably love, are either creeps, fanatics or head cases.

  8. ponce says:

    Freakish. Evil. it’s all the same thing and it all boils down to the fact that, much like many people on the right, you simply cannot accept that people can disagree with you with being crazy or evil.

    I think you need to slow down and carefully read what I wrote, Doug.

    I’m still nominally a Republican myself.

    I said “modern Republican ‘conservatives'” have freakish views.

  9. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Freakish. Evil. it’s all the same thing”

    Not to defend ponce, but freakish and evil are in no way synonymous.

    Mike

  10. Eric Florack says:

    I’m still nominally a Republican myself.

    (bwaahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahah)

  11. Eric Florack says:

    I’m still nominally a Republican myself.

    (bwaahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahah)

    The real story here, Doug is that anyone who dares to come out as a real conservative will get “the treatment”.

    You can tell who the Establishment Republicans and the left (who are getting more identical all the time) think are the greatest threat to their positions, by the way they get treated. Along comes a centrist like McCain, or Romney, and what happens? They cozy up to the for a while, then as they did with McCain, they turn on him, once he gets the nomination.

    For all the croc tears they’ll toss at Perry over what someone else painted on a stone, where Perry happens to hunt, you sit back and watch what the leftist (nee, Mainstream) press in this country does with Romney and his LDS connections should he get the nod.

    As for the debates, I submit they’re anything but; They are, rather, press conferences with time limits. Of COURSE Romney’s going to do well in that environment.

  12. Nikki says:

    The GOP’s best shot is a candidate who for all practical purposes is just a Mormon Obama: a dreaded pragmatist.

    Yeah, but the Mormon Obama has a nasty inability to pick a side and stick to it. No one likes that much of a sellout.

  13. Nikki says:

    You can tell who the Establishment Republicans and the left (who are getting more identical all the time) think are the greatest threat to their positions, by the way they get treated. Along comes a centrist like McCain, or Romney, and what happens? They cozy up to the for a while, then as they did with McCain, they turn on him, once he gets the nomination.

    How on earth did you come up with this logic? I’ve tried repeatedly to suss out how the GOP centrists’ losses are the fault of the establishment GOP who turned on them, yet at this moment in time, the rest of the GOP is on the verge of nominating a loon for president. Please explain that to me once more with feeling.

  14. ponce says:

    Not to defend ponce, but freakish and evil are in no way synonymous.

    Indeed.

    In this context, when I say freakish, I mean contradictory.

    For example, in Perry’s case

    “I’m against government but I’ve spent my entire life working for the government!”

  15. PD Shaw says:

    I believe it was Chuck Todd that reported that the Perry campaign had wanted to talk solely about jobs, jobs, jobs when they started and within the first ten days or so, the campaign was off message. I think some part of the fault is a candidate who lacks message control in the face of a political media that finds economics boring.

    And I have to admit some of the things about Perry are “interesting.”

  16. anjin-san says:

    Bithead is correct. Conservatives will indeed get “the treatment”. They will be asked to string together three consecutive coherent sentences with no gross factual errors in them.

    You have to love the right. Years later, they are still trying to find an excuse that works for “Sarahcuda” wilting like week old lettuce in the face of the furious onslaught of… Katie Couric.

    Apparently Perry’s long list of unforced errors is part of the same vast left wing conspiracy.

  17. Fiona says:

    Apparently Perry’s long list of unforced errors is part of the same vast left wing conspiracy.

    You have to love how that works. The Republican front runner effs up and it’s the lefty media’s fault.

    Perry’s wounds have been largely self-inflicted and it’s too early to tell if they’ll be fatal to his receiving the Republican nomination. His poll numbers were bound to fall to earth after the Republicans’ initial infatuation with him. All it shows is that the base isn’t enthused about Romney and any credible challenger to a Romney win is likely to win the base over. Perry seemed (and still seems) credible. It’s likely he’ll stop inflicting damage on himself as the race wears on and he learns from his mistakes. If he doesn’t, then he really is that stupid.

  18. Rick Almeida says:

    Eric firmly believes that more voters exist in the tails of the distribution than the center.

    There is no shaking his conviction.

  19. Eric Florack says:

    Bithead is correct. Conservatives will indeed get “the treatment”. They will be asked to string together three consecutive coherent sentences with no gross factual errors in them.

    So where have they been with Obama and his outright lies? Comon, Anjin… even someone of your deportment can figure this one out.

  20. Eric Florack says:

    @Rick Almeida: The center is much farther to the right than the usual suspects would have us think. Were it not so, Bob Dole and John McCain would have been president. And the establishment GOP still hasn’t gotten ready to admit the import of that message.

    and certainly, the left NEVER will.

  21. NickNot says:

    At this point, I’m surprised Governor Perry isn’t actually making the “whistling” noise you hear in war movies right after someone yells “Incoming!”

    Wow, that was fast!

    Perry got torn down on Social Issues. Find that kind of odd…. he hasn’t done well on any issue really, but SSI was the start of the collapse. Frankly, SSI is a non issue. That’s a congress thing and basically everyone know we’re going to raise the age and move on. Cain’s rise is based on 9-9-9/financial plan.

    If Romney is the nominee, it will further the argument that we only have one party now. It will be interesting if that happens.

  22. WR says:

    @Eric Florack: “The center is much farther to the right than the usual suspects would have us think. Were it not so, Bob Dole and John McCain would have been president.”

    You mean that two mainstream Republicans were defeated by Democrats because the electorate was too far right for them and thus voted for the more liberal candidates? Even in Bit-land, this is an astonishing leap of bizarro-logic.

    One might also wonder why, if the electorate is so far right, these two got the nomination in the first place instead of Jerry Falwell, or whichever theocratic thug you think should have been president. You’d think some of those ultra-righties might have given a little thought to voting for the person they preferred in the primaries, instead of waiting for the general and voting for a Democrat because the Republican wasn’t conservative enough for them.

    Sorry, Bit, but GA called — he wants his incoherent gibberish back.

  23. Moosebreath says:

    “One might also wonder why, if the electorate is so far right, these two got the nomination in the first place instead of Jerry Falwell, or whichever theocratic thug you think should have been president. You’d think some of those ultra-righties might have given a little thought to voting for the person they preferred in the primaries, instead of waiting for the general and voting for a Democrat because the Republican wasn’t conservative enough for them.”

    Quite seriously, this is the giant flaming hole in bithead’s worldview. By his standards, only 3 times in the last 70+ years has a major party nominated a True Conservative (Reagan twice and Goldwater once — never mind that they would both be drummed out of today’s Republican Parry). And yet, it is an article of bithead’s faith that the electorate is really so far right that it wants to elect True Conservatives.

    Now, political parties being primarily interested in electing candidates, one would think that they would be falling over themselves to find True Conservatives to nominate. The fact that they think a moderate is more electable just is rejected as GIGO by bithead.

  24. anjin-san says:

    It’s cool bit. Everyone understands that you are a little desperate to change the subject. Who can blame you?

  25. Eric Florack says:

    You mean that two mainstream Republicans were defeated by Democrats because the electorate was too far right for them and thus voted for the more liberal candidates?

    No. The two RINO candidates who caused the Republicans to stay home, and turned the country over to the Democrats by default.

  26. Eric Florack says:

    Now, political parties being primarily interested in electing candidates, one would think that they would be falling over themselves to find True Conservatives to nominate. The fact that they think a moderate is more electable just is rejected as GIGO by bithead.

    Your leanings are to the left. You therefore think a far left candidate is more electable.
    Why should we be shocked when the GOP establishment.. themselves a collection of go-along to get along centrists… holds to the unfounded and often disproven idea that centerists are preferable?

  27. Moosebreath says:

    “Why should we be shocked when the GOP establishment.. themselves a collection of go-along to get along centrists… holds to the unfounded and often disproven idea that centerists are preferable?”

    So you are saying that the GOP establishment would consciously prefer to nominate a centrist and lose than a True Conservative and win. Clearly, you have never had a conversation with an elected politican if you believe this.

  28. WR says:

    @Eric Florack: Then why didn’t they vote for the guys they really wanted in the primary? If they’re such a huge minority, where was the problem? Are you saying they’re all so stupid they didn’t understand who was a real conservative until it was too late?

  29. WR says:

    @Moosebreath: Yes, but the “establishment” doesn’t nominate candidates. Now we have things called primary elections. The voters nominate their preferred candidates — and they don’t like these creeps you call “real conservatives.”

  30. Moosebreath says:

    WR,

    “Yes, but the “establishment” doesn’t nominate candidates. Now we have things called primary elections. The voters nominate their preferred candidates — and they don’t like these creeps you call “real conservatives.” ”

    First, it’s True Conservatives, not real conservatives. My trademark application is pending (jk).

    Second, I think you are confusing my position with bithead’s. He’s the one saying that the voters prefer the True Conservatives, and would elect them if the establishment would only get out the way. I’m the one saying that if they were actually more electable, the establishment would nominate them every time.

  31. anjin-san says:

    Then why didn’t they vote for the guys they really wanted in the primary?

    I suspect Nancy Pelosi’s mind-control rays are at work again.

  32. anjin-san says:

    You have to kind of feel for bithead. He was in the same position in 2008 after making a long string of wildly wrong predictions about the election. He alway ends up standing in the corner screaming “bring me more paint! I need more paint!”