Green Room

Is Rick Perry Obama’s last, best hope?

posted at 9:52 am on August 31, 2011 by

With the arrival of yet another poll showing Rick Perry moving ahead of Mitt Romney and the rest of the pack, one has to wonder what Team Obama is thinking of all this. I’ve been mulling it over this week, and against all the conventional wisdom, I can’t help but suspect that The Won might be seeing a slender ray of light on an otherwise fairly dark electoral horizon. Why? It all comes down to the type of campaign that the president – along with all Democrats running for congress – plan to deploy next year.

Obama isn’t going to be able to run on his record, obviously. Absent Jesus Himself coming down and beating the unemployment rate downward with a Holy Hammer, the nation is going to be short far too many jobs. The housing market shows zero signs of climbing out of the toilet in time for the next election and the president’s approval ratings have been following a consistent trend into the danger zone. Aside from bagging bin Laden, he doesn’t have much to toot his own horn about. He’s left with no other choice but to paint the eventual nominee as an unacceptable alternative, scaring the center back into his court by essentially saying, “OK… things have been pretty crappy with me in charge, but this guy/gal is even worse!

His most likely path – or at least one part of it – will be the exact same strategy that the DNCC is already revving up to try to take back the house… Mediscare and the specter of slashing Social Security. Even when Obama was in debt deal talks with John Boehner and talking about “reining in entitlement costs,” we saw Nancy Pelosi scurrying out immediately following each of the President’s speeches, pretty much saying, “Oh, don’t listen to him. We’re not going to approve any cuts to these programs. We’ll save you from the Republicans!

We’ve already seen a preview of the plan, with ads running which literally depict Paul Ryan pushing granny off of a cliff in her wheelchair. Team Obama must be smiling, thinking of how Perry is already filming their own attack ads for them every time he comes out and says that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme. (By the way, Governor, it’s really more of a pyramid scheme than a Ponzi scheme, but we can argue semantics another day.) Poll after poll shows that while Americans have slowly come to realize that some changes will need to be made to the program, they oppose any cuts in benefits by a huge margin.

Come debate time, I assume that Obama will already have some sound bites warmed up and ready to go. “I’m the guy who’s trying fix and save Social Security for you. And over there you’ve got the guy calling it a Ponzi Scheme. Who ya gonna trust?

Perry may have some other long-term problems brewing as well. One of the chief knocks against Barack Obama by his conservative critics – and deservedly so – is his lack of real world business experience. (He’s never run so much as a lemonade stand, etc.) What does Perry bring to the table on that score compared to contenders like Romney and Bachmann? Selling books door to door on his summer vacation and helping out on his father’s cotton farm? Perry’s military experience is highly commendable and gives him a nice leg up on both Obama and most of the rest of the GOP field, but it’s still not the job creating “street cred” which many activists have been screaming for.

Some of the base voters who are showing a preference for Perry over Mitt, specifically, like to mention Romney’s shifting conservatism. (Or “evolving,” if you’re feeling more kind hearted.) These same folks seem to ignore the fact that Perry used to be a Democrat. Heck, he was Al Gore’s Texas campaign chair in 1988. You will likely recall a number of comments by Barack Obama back when people still thought Jon Huntsman might have a chance in hell at the nomination. He loved making pointed quips about what a loyal member of his administration Huntsman had been. It doesn’t require much of a stretch of the imagination to picture Obama saying, “You know, I liked the Governor a lot more when he was a member of our party.” (Insert annoying chuckle here.)

And how about health care? Most of this summer you couldn’t browse a conservative political blog for 24 hours without seeing the phrase, “Romneycare.” And now we’re barely two weeks into the official Perry campaign and we find out he was sending love letters to Hillary Clinton to tell her how “commendable” and “worthy” her efforts to craft Hillarycare were.

Don’t get me wrong here.. Obama is still looking absolutely beatable next year, and none of this may wind up being a disqualifier. But at first blush it certainly looks like a stack of potential talking points for the Democrats and some ready made ammunition against a Perry campaign in the general.

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By all means, let’s pick the guy who lost last time and who is just like McCain.

hmfearny on August 31, 2011 at 10:00 AM

For good or bad, Jazz, Perry is a much more mailable politician than you seem to think he is.

He cut Kay Bailey Hutchison off at the knees in 2008-09 by lurching strong to the right, after thinking he had to move to the middle in 2007 after his 39 percent showing in the ’06 gubernatorial election. The same thing holds true here — by unloading the occassional rhetorical howitzer, Perry’s trying to make sure that he maintains the most buzz on the right, not Michelle Bachmann or any other candidate.

The goal is to become the default candidate of the right side of the Republican Party, since that side has more voters than the area more to the center that Mitt Romney is staking out. And while trashing Ben Bernanke and some of the other lines do give the Democrats ammunition to use if Perry gets the nomination, his team is betting the farm that Obama will either be too ideologically rigid or too in fear of his far left base to triangulate in 2012, and that the economy will be as bad or worse a year from now.

If we’re still stuck in almost zero or negative growth and the unemployment rate is still hovering in the 8-9 percent range, the Democrats can bring up Perry’s statements, but odds are high the moderate swing voters aren’t going to be that receptive to voting for Obama again because the Texas governor said mean things about that nice Mr. Bernanke.

jon1979 on August 31, 2011 at 10:38 AM


Perry could easily present to independents as a guy who is not an ideologue.

Kinda like Reagan (former Democrat).

All he has to do is articulate solid (i.e., CONSERVATIVE) ideas for getting the nation back from the decline Obama has chosen.

Ragspierre on August 31, 2011 at 11:41 AM

I will not vote for Romney. Can’t do it. I’ll vote downticket, but leave the presidential slot blank if it comes down to Romney. His defense of RomneyCare is too much for me. Sorry.

Vancomycin on August 31, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Vancomycin on August 31, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Though I don’t care for Romney, I would happily vote for him it meant Obama looses. Romney is head and shoulders above the current occupant of the White House.

cozmo on August 31, 2011 at 12:10 PM

Someone has to say it. All the Perry groupies are in denia

swamp_yankee on August 31, 2011 at 3:16 PM

It bugs the piss out of me when people complain about Romney not fighting the conservative fight over the past 4 years but then are prepared to swoop into Perry’s arms when he declares. Where the hell has Perry been for the conservative movement? Ask Rubio, Brown, and Halley who helped them get elected- wasn’t Perry. For all his swagger, he chickened out on the sidelines until Obama seemed a sure loss. Bachman, Romney and T-Paw were all duking it out when Obama seemed invincible.

drballard on August 31, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Similar attacks will be launched on ANY Republican, with the full connivance of the JournoListers. Just pick the person that you think will be the best President. As a physician I too hate RomneyCare but Obama must be defeated.

DocinPA on August 31, 2011 at 8:17 PM

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