He held 170 public events and still finished a distant third behind Ron Paul, whom no one — including Ron Paul — thinks is going to be the nominee. And yet he soldiers on, promising to give voters an electable option even though New Hampshirites have already crowned Romney the electable option in the field. I wonder what the real reason is. Maybe it’s simple pride, the feeling that he simply can’t quit after one disappointing outing after having worked so hard for so long? (See also Perry, Rick.) Or maybe it’s institutional inertia, i.e. the campaign’s already spent money and put people in place in South Carolina so, hey, why not keep going? Or maybe he simply wants to play spoiler and try to take some moderate votes away from Romney before he’s 100 percent inevitable. Can’t say I find any of those reasons compelling, but it’s his dime.
Perry’s gotten all the grief these past few months for running a terrible campaign but don’t overlook this guy when making your list of the most dismal disappointments in recent Republican history. He had foreign policy experience and a decent record as governor — better than Romney’s, at least — and he offered some bold policy proposals on the trail this year, including backing Paul Ryan’s budget. And yet, whether due to his own poor instincts or horrible advice from John Weaver et al., he inexplicably decided to play identity politics games with the base. He should have finished second tonight, or even first, but he gambled that he could somehow eclipse Romney among moderate Republicans and then poach enough conservatives to win the sort of races Romney’s now winning against a split right-wing field. Why he thought he could do that when Mitt had outraised and outorganized him, I have no idea. Could be that he figured he’d have no chance against the next crop of Republicans like Jindal and Rubio and Christie and Ryan and therefore had to roll the dice now no matter how long the odds are against him. Regardless, he should have been smarter and done better. Too bad.