Thursday, August 25, 2011


Steve Kornacki may be right when he says that the Rick Perry bubble could burst, but if so, it's not going to burst this way, at least not during GOP primary season:

Every mistake he makes now will become instant fodder for cable news and the blogosphere, with the potential to dominate a news cycle or two. How will he handle one-on-one interviews with reporters? (Remember when George W. Bush flunked that world leaders pop quiz in the 2000 race -- how would something like that go over for Perry?)

Well, how did it go over for Bush? He went on to win the nomination. He went on to be president for eight years. That interview did no damage to him, and may have actually helped him politically. And that was years ago, when contempt for people who actually know stuff was somewhat less than universal among Republican voters.

But I guess Kornacki's point is that Perry could be taken down, in that event or under other circumstances, by the GOP elites:

...these elites -- elected officials, money-men and -women, interest group leaders, activists, and conservative media outlets and personalities -- will be key in determining whether Perry's moment lasts. If they conclude that nominating him would be an electoral risk, they will develop messages and strategies to convince rank-and-file GOP voters to look elsewhere. With Trump earlier this year, we caught a glimpse of how this works: His red-hot birtherism made elites uncomfortable and some of them used their clout to diminish him. We've also seen it with Sarah Palin: Think of how GOP elites happily joined the media's pile-on after her tone-deaf response to Gabrielle Giffords' shooting in January....

And if he develops a reputation as a wild-man candidate (just imagine the SNL caricature), it will only make elites more nervous -- and more willing to use their sway to stop him.

Perry may be a male Palin, but there are big differences, and I think they're the reasons why the elites won't be as effective at stopping Perry. Palin quit her job; Perry didn't -- that means he can still lay claim to being an effective executive (and he can say he's done it a hell of a lot longer than half a term). Palin gets distracted by the stuff that makes her non-political gossip fodder; Perry doesn't. Palin is teasing us with a campaign; Perry actually hunkered down and set a real campaign up. (And Perry is male, which means he can fit a pre-existing president archetype in right-wingers' brains, namely the Reagan/Bush archetype. Palin is not Margaret Thatcher.)

The Giffords thing? I think if Perry did something like that, he could survive it. I think Palin could have survived it, too, if she seemed (by GOP standards) serious otherwise. (The bar isn't that high, really -- Michele Bachmann basically clears it.)

In general, the problem is that the elites are going to struggle if they want to take down Perry because he's memorized their playbook. It's Rove's playbook from 2002 and 2004: seem like Daddy protecting us from danger; have no enemies on the right; divide the world into "us" and snooty liberal elitist haters (which provides cover whenever anyone criticizes you for any reason -- they're just nuance-loving eggheads! we have simple Amurrican values!). The problem for any GOP elites is that if they want to challenge him, even though they wrote the playbook, it means they're among his egghead enemies. They sowed the seeds of their own demise.

And no, this analogy isn't valid:

[Romney's] bet is that when it comes time to make a call, the elites will decide he's the only solid general election option they have and help sell him to the base. This is roughly the same route that John Kerry followed on the Democratic side in 2004, when he won the nomination after falling behind -- far, far behind -- Howard Dean in the late months of 2003.

That worked because we Democratic voters may have been to the left of mainstream opinion on the war, but we weren't out of our freaking minds. We were content to dump Dean in favor of a non-insurgent candidate if his opinion on the war matched ours; we didn't want an insane radical who wants to throw decades of American governance out the window. Big difference.

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