I was watching Bill Maher last weekend when he mentioned that Rick Perry’s poor performance on Friday and loss in the Florida straw poll meant that he was done. Several other news sources, such as (1) and (2), pretty much said the same thing. But it’s amazing what a difference a few days makes in the eyes of the public. Now several sources, such as (3), are backpedaling from that initial assessment.
Here’s my take: Perry gave a really poor performance, and people knee-jerk reacted to it initially, but now those people are starting to realize that they jumped to conclusions. Perry certainly isn’t the obvious front-runner he was before, but he is no worse than the other candidates at this point. Could he still win the GOP nomination? I think it’s still possible. NPR did a write-up about how Perry is handling is bad debates, and the way Perry manages to say that being a good debater is a bad thing is amazingly well done. Basically he’s saying “yeah I did a bad job tonight, and it’s a good thing I did a bad job,” but he phrases it in such a way that I think many people will fall for it. (4) At the same time, there is an equally good chance that another “superstar” candidate will emerge.
Rick perry certainly isn’t the first GOP superstar this election season. We have also seen Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump become overnight candidate sensations only to fall flat on their faces. I think that this high rate of turnover stems from how ideological the right is. They want things to be ideologically perfect, and anyone who doesn’t fit that mold is a failure. This seems to be a side-effect of the Tea Party’s insistence on “taking back our government” and their general view that compromise is a Very Bad Thing™. I believe the proper saying is “the chicken’s are coming home to roost…”
There is another potential trend, although with just three data points it’s kinda hard to call it a trend. Nonetheless, each successive superstar candidate has been less crazy than the last (relatively speaking of course). We might be seeing the GOP playing a game where the extreme right base is getting excited over candidates so they are involved, but at the same time shifting more center to find a candidate that is electable and thus pleasing both groups. But maybe not…this is just a guess based on a few data points.
Either way, the candidates are fighting each other for the nomination, and they are using their typical scare tactics combined with extreme oversimplification and science denialism with a healthy dose of religiosity. I must admit, it makes me happy to see them trying to tear each others eyes out for once. I’m sure that happiness will fade once September-October 2012 comes around.
Overall I keep going back and forth between bemusement at their stupidity, and abject terror because of their stupidity. While I suspect that Obama would win against any of the three superstars we’ve seen so far, I’m not that confident. And the thought of someone like Rick Perry becoming president in the midst of the rising power of the Tea Party is truly frightening to me.
(1) Available: http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/09/26/rick_perry_weekend/index.html