Sunday, June 19, 2011


I admit I'm not sure how a Rick Perry presidential bid, if it happens, will be received by the elitists -- or the broad (i.e., non-GOP) public, for that matter, specifically (in both cases) because of the "values" talk:

As speculation mounts about his presidential ambitions, Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivered a rousing and unapologetic defense of conservative principles on Saturday at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.

Perry repeatedly brought an audience of hundreds of Republican activists to their feet with a small government message reminiscent of the one that helped him win an unprecedented third term as governor last November....

He sounded right at home when speaking about social issues that many Republican primary voters hold dear.

"When it comes to conservative social issues, it saddens me when sometimes my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left," he said, without naming names....

On the one hand, he seems like a politically skilled, plugged-in big-state governor who's going to run on what's basically mainstream GOP economics right now. That would seem to make him catnip for the George Wills and David Brookses of the world, and would thus put him on the list of "serious" candidates.

On the other hand, he clearly intends to put social issues front and center -- and, of course, he's planning to host a "day of prayer and fasting" one week before the Iowa straw poll this summer. Arbiters of "seriousness" in the right-wing punditocracy obviously love to praise the simple piety of "real" Americans and the horrible Godlessness of liberals -- but they know (as do mainstream big-money Republican donors, and as did the funders of tea party candidates in 2010) that swing really voters don't respond very well to God-bothering. The teabaggers who were elected in 2010 have made holy crusades out of restricting abortion and turning Planned Parenthood into the new ACORN, but most of them carefully avoided running on such issues.

Is Perry going to have a hard time moving non-crazy voters in the GOP out of the Romney camp, because of this? Is polling in head-to-head matchups with Obama going to persuade righty pundits and donors that Perry's TV-preacher style would doom him against Obama in purple states?

Or, on the other hand, will all his Jesus talk just be downplayed by the mainstream press, out of a sense that nobody wants to complicate his preferred story line for swing voters with inconvenient facts? And meanwhile, will he be the candidate the GOP electorate is waiting for -- an big-macher insider who has a Cain/Bachmann-style outsider message, a guy who can win votes from people who want a purist and people who want a winner? Or (as I've been thinking until now) will he seem too assertively Bubba even GOP voters? (He seems to lack even George W. Bush's ability to fake a certain level of Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart himility, which voters across the political spectrum seem to demand in America.)

I really don't know the answer to any of these questions.

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