RICK PERRY'S DEATH PENALTY NON-LIABILITY
Well, I guess the Romney campaign deserves a lot of credit for spoon-feeding Politico this compendium of reasons why Rick Perry would be a lousy presidential candidate in a general election. Excellent work, guys, even if I'm not rooting for you. (Recently I've actually been hoping for a Perry candidacy, on the assumption that, yes, he would be a tough sell in a general election, but Obama seems so weakened right now that I think only Bachmann or Palin as an opponent gives him a better-than-even chance of reelection. As for Romney, I think he's a mortal lock to win if he's the candidate, so, while I admire his campaign's spin work, I'm not happy if it's working.)
We're told that Perry can't possibly win non-Southern states and big swing states (which doesn't explain why he's only 6 points behind Obama in Pennsylvania, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll). And we're told that certain incidents in his past will be easy to use against him -- one in particular:
Veterans of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's unsuccessful 2010 primary challenge to Perry recalled being stunned at the way attacks bounced off the governor in a strongly conservative state gripped by tea party fever. Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man -- Cameron Todd Willingham -- and got this response from a primary voter: "It takes balls to execute an innocent man."
The Willingham case is just one episode in Perry's gubernatorial tenure that could be revived against him in the very different context of a national race, potentially compromising him in a general election.
Oh, please. I think the American public is far less conservative than current insider conventional wisdom would tell you it is, but compassion for the wrongly incarcerated -- and executed -- has never, ever penetrated the national consciousness. I used to think that was because of widespread fear of crime, but crime dropped in the last twenty years and the indifference to abuses of the criminal justice system persists. I assume it's a just-world-theory thing -- even reasonable, non-rage-junkie (i.e., non-Republican) Americans can't really believe that people convicted of felonies did nothing to deserve their fate.
Americans didn't care about Ricky Ray Rector. They won't care about Cameron Todd Willingham.