Perry has been clumsy at explaining his digressions from Tea Party gospel, but he doesn’t have nearly as much to explain to that constituency as the blue-state front-runner. Romney, to his shame, denied citizens of Massachusetts their sacred right to breathe carbon emissions, swim at polluted beaches and dump their health crises at the emergency room. “Romneycare” is a burden. “Perrycare,” by comparison, is just another name for praying you don’t get sick.
In this race, Rick Perry is the Tea Party’s dream candidate, the one remaining figure who could translate a noisy backlash into serious power. If Rick Perry loses, the Tea Party will have missed the opportunity of a lifetime. If he wins, Perry being Perry, it’s not entirely clear whether he will appease its members, but my guess is he’ll try.
“Rick Perry is the only candidate who would actually close down a cabinet department,” one longtime admirer told me, when I asked whether a President Perry would disappoint the Tea Party. “You would see a very happy base — at least for the first term.”
The rest of us are left to recall the advice handed down 10 years ago by the late, wisecracking Cassandra of Texas politics, Molly Ivins: “Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.”