But you know there’s concern that you use controversial rhetoric, like calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.”

There may be someone who is an established Republican who circulates in the cocktail circuit that would find some of my rhetoric to be inflammatory or what have you, but I’m really talking to the American citizen out there. I think American citizens are just tired of this political correctness and politicians who are tiptoeing around important issues. They want a decisive leader. I’m comfortable that the rhetoric I have used was both descriptive and spot on. Calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme has been used for years. I don’t think people should be surprised that terminology would be used…

Are you finding it difficult to satisfy the Tea Party?

I speak honestly and I speak plainly. The perfect candidate that everyone ever has agreed with — I’m still waiting for that man or woman to show up. I made a lot of decisions and I’ve got a substantial record. From time to time I’ll get something wrong. I’ll admit it those times when I have not been correct. But people will never have to guess where I stand on an issue.

***

“‘Many voters in 2008 had no idea what Barack Obama actually believed or had proposed. They liked the idea of Obama. Same may be largely true with Rick Perry,’ said GOP strategist Mark McKinnon, who advised George W. Bush’s and John McCain’s presidential campaigns…

“Even as voters here seem to look past his positions to project onto Perry all of their hopes for who the nominee should be, Perry’s rivals are working furiously to sew a narrative that Perry’s controversial remarks, such as on Social Security, render him too far outside the mainstream…

“‘People are going to know this stuff in the same way they found out Howard Dean had crazy ideas, in the same way they found out Michael Dukakis looked good in a tank,’ Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief strategist, said in reference to past Democratic presidential hopefuls.

“‘This is what happens,’ Stevens added. ‘Horror movies love to start with everybody at a party having fun. That’s not how they end. This is a long movie.'”

***

“What we’re about to see is if these qualities of Perry — call it his ‘hossness’ — are enough for him to become the durable frontrunner in the Republican-nomination fight. He can go a long way just by demonstrating he’s a fighter in the mold of a Sarah Palin or a Donald Trump. That means making the occasional incendiary comment, never apologizing, earning the hatred of the elites, and not sweating the details. All of this, Perry has nailed.

“But to become president of the United States, he’ll have to reach persuadables who don’t value outrageousness for its own sake. If he’s never willing to back down, he’ll have to go — should he win the nomination — all the way to November 2012 defending the notion that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is possibly guilty of treason. On Social Security, he’s managed to take what turns out to be his thoroughly conventional Republican view that the program should stay the same for seniors and near-retirees while it’s reformed for younger people and make it radioactive through his choice of words and his theoretical musings. His campaign so far has no policy except generalized statements celebrating Texas and condemning the federal government…

“In this year of populist discontent, the blunt outsider Rick Perry has a natural call on the Republican heart. The question is whether he can maintain enough appeal over time to the Republican mind, which will eventually calculate the odds of a prospective nominee vanquishing the incumbent. Whether Perry makes it or not, he’ll never be dull. If success were solely a matter of animal spirits, he’d be a lead-pipe cinch.”

***

“Perry comes to the race with a remarkable lack of national experience and exposure. The only recent equivalent would probably be Sarah Palin, and it’s not surprising that Texas and Alaska would produce the people with little frame of reference outside of their home states. Both places are huge, so it’s easy for people who live there to think they’re in a self-enclosed world. If Texas or Alaska had the population density of New York City, either one could contain every person on the planet, although of course a lot of them would be very uncomfortable…

“Rick Perry has never spent any serious time outside of Texas, except for a five-year stint in the military. Nobody sent him off to boarding school to expand his horizons. He grew up in Paint Creek, where he graduated third in a high school class of 13. He went to the most deeply Texas of all the state’s major institutions of higher learning. He was a terrible student, but won the prized post of yell leader, the most deeply Texas of all possible Aggie achievements. Then he joined the Air Force and flew transport planes out of Texas, Germany and the Middle East…

“Having an interest in national government that’s mainly limited to disliking it might work fine if you’re the governor of a state that has always regarded itself as ‘low-tax, low-service’ anyway. It’s a little more problematic if you’re the guy in charge of keeping the dollar stable, the food supply safe and the national defense ready.

“We could live with a president who named his boots ‘Freedom’ and ‘Liberty.’

“Not sure about one who has contempt for the job he’s running for.”

***

“At the cusp of the 2012 race, we have a classic cultural collision between a skinny Eastern egghead lawyer who’s inept in Washington gunfights and a pistol-totin’, lethal-injectin’, square-shouldered cowboy who has no patience for book learnin’…

“Our education system is going to hell. Average SAT scores are falling, and America is slipping down the list of nations for college completion. And Rick Perry stands up with a smirk to talk to students about how you can get C’s, D’s and F’s and still run for president…

“The Republicans are now the ‘How great is it to be stupid?’ party. In perpetrating the idea that there’s no intellectual requirement for the office of the presidency, the right wing of the party offers a Farrelly Brothers ‘Dumb and Dumber’ primary in which evolution is avant-garde…

“The occupational hazard of democracy is know-nothing voters. It shouldn’t be know-nothing candidates.”

***

“What those dummies Bush and Perry have in common, other than having been Texas governors, pilots and cheerleaders (what is it with Texas?), is that they’re not stupid at all.

“This doesn’t mean they’re right about everything or even most things. But they’re smart enough to know that most people in this country didn’t go to Ivy League colleges — or any college for that matter. Most haven’t led privileged lives of any sort, but nonetheless have unspoiled hearts and are willing to help any who would help themselves.

“This is the essence of the so-called ordinary American. Self-reliant, individualistic, entrepreneurial, neighborly and strong. These people come in both Republican and Democratic flavors, though we’ve somehow lost sight of that in these hyperpartisan, sound-bite times.

“Until someone emerges to remind Americans of who they are in a way that neither insults their intelligence nor condescends to their less-fortunate circumstances, smart money goes to the ‘stupid’ politicians, who are dumb as foxes and happy as clams when their opponents misunderestimate them.”

***

“Let’s go to the meter right now about the question we’ve been asking twelve of our regulars including Katty and Kelly: Is Rick Perry like Ronald Reagan in 1980?