My good friends John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson offer eulogies for the Tim Pawlenty presidential campaign today at Power Line, and as usual, they are quite insightful. Scott says that Pawlenty’s descent started when he backed down from challenging Mitt Romney in an earlier debate, and notes that Republicans in this cycle want a fighter. John laments the loss of the one candidate he thought could easily beat Barack Obama based on his record, and says that Pawlenty never got past “the first impression of him as just another guy in a suit.” Both are fair conclusions, and be sure to read both posts in their entirety.
However, both Scott and John express some reservations about Rick Perry and his ability to be a “viable alternative” to Mitt Romney and/or Obama himself. I’ve been covering Perry as a potential candidate since April 2010, when he rocked the house with a speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Even then, while being challenged in the primary for his third term as Texas governor by Kay Bailey Hutchison, his appeal as a presidential candidate was apparent:
I’ve seen Perry give speeches on television (mainly on YouTube) and knew he could be dynamic. Earlier in the day, I mentioned that alone among the other speakers on the ticket today, Perry had the only shot at matching the energy of Sarah Palin’s appearance. Perry has a very active delivery, in the same manner as a preacher. He doesn’t stand still, but instead puts his whole body into what he says. Perry’s speech turned a political conference into a Republican revival meeting, complete with the call to action at the end.
Perry’s first priority will be to win re-election in Texas later this year, which shouldn’t present a difficult task. If after that he decides to get serious about a run for the Presidency, don’t count him out. He’ll have more than two terms as an executive in a state that, as Perry reminded everyone in the speech, ranks first for economic growth thanks to Republican efforts to trim costs and keep taxes low. He could very well be the kind of challenger that could make Obama’s shot at a second term very, very difficult.
Later that week, he denied any interest in the job, but Perry spent the next year picking very national fights with the Obama administration. In December, Perry launched a broadside against the EPA and challenged their authority, drawing the White House into a political battle over regulation and federal encroachment on states’ jurisdictions. Two months later, Perry crafted a legislative agenda in his state that included border security and abortion, as well as voter ID and eminent-domain reform.
Perry’s main focus will be on jobs, of course, but he has spent the past year or more already fighting the Obama administration, and not just rhetorically, either. He starts off with more credibility on this score than anyone else in the race, plus that jobs record for which Obama will have no answer at all. Perry hasn’t come out of nowhere to enter this presidential race, and his careful building of stature gives a strong indication of his viability as a candidate.
Tonight, Perry meets Iowa Republicans in Waterloo, an event which Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum will attend. With Pawlenty out of the race, Perry’s entry threatens Bachmann the most. Perry can match her argument as a fighter against Obama but add over ten years of successful executive governance and job creation to the mix. He can fire up voters as well as she does, too, as his speech at the SRLC demonstrated. I’ll be at the event in Waterloo tonight, and I will be watching the interaction and the crowd reaction carefully. We will shortly see how well Perry can campaign nationally, but given the lengthy preparation for this entry, I’d bet viability won’t be much of a problem.
Meanwhile, here is Perry’s speech from April 2010, as a reminder:
If the Internet connection holds up, I’ll be Tweeting my analysis during the event. Once more, here is the Townhall/HotAir widget for those who want to track my feed here rather than at Twitter: