#2. Don’t overestimate the voters. Senator Thompson sometimes seemed to think that his campaign would take off simply because of an outpouring of dissatisfaction with every other candidate in the race. It didn’t. Every candidate needs a few big ideas and, even more importantly, a strategy to share them with the voters. Republican primary voters are a fickle, sometimes lazy, sort, who often follow the advice of the professional punditry class in choosing their nominees. Fred was a popular legislator, a key player in the Watergate hearings, and an accomplished attorney. But he spent little time courting the permanent opiners of Washington, so they had little use for him.

Governor Perry is an accomplished politician and the longest-serving governor in his state’s history. In Washington, that amounts to two things: “jack” and “squat.” Perry needs to remember that the professional punditry of Washington already has spent a good deal of time being courted and, in some cases, all but paid off by candidates who have been running for president since John McCain’s “cruel hoax” came to a blissful end. They aren’t going to rush to embrace someone who hasn’t put the time in to kiss their backsides, take them to expensive dinners, and patiently listen to their bone-headed strategy for winning the South Carolina primary. Voters, too, need to hear more from the governor than simply he is a conservative and everyone else in the race is terrible. He needs to give them a reason, a vision to choose him over people who’ve been on their TV screens and mailboxes for months and all those who the pundits will be talking up incessantly on one political panel or another.