Don't panic, Romney

The first primary isn’t for four months — an eternity in politics. Perry has been exposed to the national spotlight for all of two weeks. He hasn’t shared a stage with the other candidates yet, hasn’t spent much time on the trail, hasn’t had to wed the vision of his candidacy to the more perishable reality of a campaign. In the next round of debates, Michele Bachmann and the lesser right-wing contenders will have every incentive to attack Perry, because he’s siphoning away their kind of voter. If Sarah Palin gets into the race (which I still doubt), she’ll have to take the fight to Perry as well. Meanwhile, unless Jon Huntsman starts getting traction, Romney doesn’t have to worry about any of the rival candidates making a play for his core supporters. (If Perry is the only plausible alternative, the Massachusetts governor has the moderate-East Coast vote locked up.) And once it becomes clear that Chris Christie (alas!) isn’t riding over the hill to save them, he can probably count on a steady drumbeat of favorable press from a movement-conservative establishment that’s heretofore been keeping him at arm’s length. So why not wait and see a little bit, let Perry have his moment in the sun, and save his punches for the months when more voters start to pay attention?

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