Why Rick Perry would make a formidable candidate (or not)

In other words, Perry fits the profile for the type of candidate that typically wins the GOP nomination when a constitutional officeholder isn’t in the running, and is the only one who fits it right now. He also happens to have some appeal to social, fiscal and foreign policy conservatives, and while he certainly has his weaknesses (more on that in a moment), he brings plenty of strengths to the table. He’ll be plugged into the Houston/Dallas GOP money markets, which virtually guarantees that he’ll be able to run a credible campaign. Finally, he has a pretty plain path to the nomination: Win, place or show in Iowa, pass on New Hampshire, win South Carolina, then sweep the border/Southern-heavy primaries on Super Tuesday…

It is obviously too early to do much speculation on what a Perry presidency would look like. But I do think that, continuing our Obama analogy, Republicans should see some red flags, at least in terms of coalition-building. Consider the backgrounds of some of the more successful coalition-builders: FDR, Reagan and Bill Clinton. All had very diverse backgrounds. More importantly, these backgrounds were diverse in ways that allowed those presidents to keep various factions in their parties happy. For example, Bill Clinton grew up in Hope, Ark., went to Georgetown, Oxford and Yale, and served as chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. As John Judis and Ruy Teixeira explained, this enabled Clinton to relate to the Democrats’ New Left base while expanding the party’s appeal to blue dogs, working-class voters and suburbanites…

This would be Perry’s challenge as president. Once the referendum on Obama’s presidency is over, would he be able to govern in a manner that didn’t send Northern suburbanites scurrying from the party? It’s something for GOP’ers to contemplate. There are at the very least some warning signs: When George W. Bush beat Ann Richards for governor by eight points in 1994, Bush carried Dallas, Harris (Houston), Bexar (San Antonio) and Tarrant (Fort Worth) counties. In 2010, Perry won statewide by an even larger margin, but lost all of those counties save for Tarrant. Under Perry’s watch, the Texas GOP’s coalition became more rural and less urban/suburban, and there’s probably some risk he’d do the same thing to the national GOP.