Thursday, September 01, 2011


Joe Klein recites the conventional wisdom:

Romney=Kerry; Perry=Dean?

... Eight years ago, John Kerry -- the eventual Democratic nominee -- had tanked ..., the victim of staff problems, indecision and Howard Dean, whose passionate candidacy had captured the fancy of Democratic activists.

This year, Mitt Romney is facing a similar swoonlet, with Texas Governor Rick Perry -- who tickles the GOP’s base as Dean did the Democrats -- sweeping past him in the near-meaningless early horserace polls. Perry, as the world now knows, is a bit of a wild man. In normal circumstances, a candidate who implies that the government’s most popular program -- Social Security -- is unconstitutional would not have much of a future in presidential politics and I wouldn’t be surprised if Perry self-immolates in the struggle to stay hot in the cold Iowa winter....

What Klein is forgetting is that the modern Republican Party is a Bizarro World version of a normal political party. Democratic voters in 2004 concluded (rightly or wrongly) that Dean was a tad extreme, and that that was a bad thing. Republican voters this year think Perry is a far-right purist and a hothead with a chip on his shoulder -- and that's a good thing. They want someone who's hotheaded and off-putting to people who aren't among the party faithful. What they've feared until now is that the guy who was going to get the nomination was someone who actually meets non-wingnuts partway once in a while: Mitt Romney. That prospect terrified them the same way Howard Dean's rise terrified many mainstream Democrats in 2004. And just the way Democrats sought a "safe" choice, and thus gravitated to John Kerry, Republicans this year have sought an unsafe choice -- and so they're relieved that Perry finally came along.

So if anyone is their Kerry, it's Perry. (And maybe that will be true in November 2012 as well.)

Perry as Dean? I'll tell you this: if there were a "Perry scream" moment, Perry would do even better in the subsequent primaries as a result of it. He'd blame the whole controversy on the "liberal media," and the party faithful would rally around him. That's the difference between the two parties.