Oddly, just before Rick Perry was indicted, I was mentally sketching out a post arguing that Perry could be the GOP's 2016 presidential front-runner, in theory, if he continued to pursue the nomination the way he's been doing it recently. I didn't imagine that Perry could do this without screwing up -- I wasn't thinking about his legal woes, which weren't on my radar, but rather about his gaffe-filled 2012 campaign -- but I thought that he'd spent this year doing a much better job of running a pre-campaign than a lot of Republican A-listers.
Specifically, Perry's been stroking wingnut pleasure centers at a time when Ryan, Paul, and Rubio have been trying to feign moderation, Christie has been trying to downplay legal troubles and past acts of RINOism, and Jeb Bush has been trying to live down his support for immigration reform and Common Core. Perry hits the pro-capitalist pleasure button every time he trolls a blue state and offers to relieve it of a few big employers. His macho-man appearance on the border with Sean Hannity and the Texas Highway Patrol was top-shelf wingnut gun/xenophobia porn. And on the subject of immigration, there was this just a couple of days ago:
Pure winger pleasure. Ahhh, but that's all moot now, right? Perry's under indictment, so we can stop talking about him for 2016 -- right?
I don't know. All the right people (and I do mean all the right people) are rallying around him:
PERRY FIRES BACK; STANDS BY VETO http://t.co/6AC2Qt01Ic— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) August 16, 2014
Rick Perry Punches Back Against Indictment http://t.co/S7c0YhmwRS— Fox Nation (@foxnation) August 16, 2014
Confident Perry: “I intend to fight, & I intend to win”: AUSTIN, Texas — In a brief press conference at the Ca... http://t.co/4LeBQsmhWR— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) August 16, 2014
(That last one is George Zimmerman's brother.)
At the moment I think, within his party, Perry could become what Bill Clinton was to Democrats in the Gingrich/Ken Starr years, minus the mixed feelings Democrats had (i.e., that adultery, if not impeachable, is still a bad thing) -- Perry was going after Democrats, so I don't think Republicans are going to think he did anything bad.
I once wrote that Chris Christie was going about it all wrong if he wanted to remain a 2016 contender: he should have lashed out and said Bridgegate was nothing but a witch hunt, because that's what GOP primary voters want to hear. Well, that's exactly what Perry is doing now. Yeah, he may go to jail, but if he doesn't, he may emerge a huge crazy-base hero.
Last night, after the indictment came down, someone on Twitter snarkily posted a link to a July post at The Fix titled "Rick Perry. So Hot Right Now." Yes, laugh now, but Perry was getting traction -- see, for instance, these Gallup numbers:
Incessantly trolling liberals was working for him. Tacking hard to the right on immigration was working for him. Being a martyr to evil liberalism might work for him, too.