Rick Perry is a lot closer to the nomination than you think

Romney’s problem is four-fold: he’s politically “fungible” (to put it politely), he’s from the wrong region of the country (New England), he’s of the wrong religion (Mormonism) and he’s too closely identified with Wall Street (Bain Capital). The Republican base would prefer to nominate a strong conservative, evangelical Christian from the Sunbelt who, at the least, shares their disdain for Wall Street’s reckless stewardship of the nation’s financial system.

Once Labor Day has passed, there will be five debates, in quick succession, on the GOP presidential candidates’ calendars. These will be important tests for Perry. If at the end of two or three, it’s clear that he’s every bit the equal of Mitt Romney on matters of policy and politics, then the Perry juggernaut becomes all but unstoppable. Romney’s “I’m the only electable one” argument will vanish and the party’s base will nominate one of their own. If Perry stumbles badly in the debates, Romney’s campaign gets a second wind.

Knowing that the only things standing between Perry and the GOP nomination are a couple of “good enough” debate performances, the GOP “establishment” faces a choice: they can cross their fingers and hope for the best or mount a sustained negative campaign to destroy Perry with the party’s base. It is likely that, after Labor Day, a sustained negative campaign against Perry will be launched.