I confess: I really want to see Rick Perry mount a comeback just so folks will start to use the Twitter hashtag #RickRolling (h/t Ben Shapiro). His debate performance last week — and this latest ad — make me think it’s still possible. Much rides on tonight — but, if he does well again, then he stands to finish reasonably well in Iowa, where his recent emphasis on social issues at least won’t be a turnoff. Who knows what will happen from there?
No matter what, this ad makes sense for Perry, whose strength has always been his jobs record. For whatever reason, he’s had a difficult time conveying that he was a crucial component of the jobs growth in Texas. He needs to remind voters at every opportunity that he did carefully cultivate a business-friendly environment in the Lone Star State and can consequently claim at least a little of the credit for the state’s economic success, even if the bulk of it came from the courage and vision of the entrepreneurs who responded to the incentives Perry established.
That said, Perry’s new emphasis on his “outsider” status is less effective than he seems to think. Yes, he exudes a cowboy conservatism that ought to appeal to rugged individualists in a way Newt Gingrich’s technocratic conservatism and Mitt Romney’s pragmatic conservatism don’t. But he’s still a career politician. Better to stick to his tagline of “making Washington as inconsequential as possible.” That conveys the notion that he does understand some minimal level of governance is required even for a free society — and that he understands that, as president, he’d need to be able to survive and thrive from inside the D.C. swamp. Plus, “making Washington as inconsequential as possible” provides a direct contrast to Barack Obama’s “bigger government is better government” message — and it does that without making an overt point of focusing on Obama, as though he thinks he’s somehow above the fray of the primary (an image both Romney and Gingrich have tried to cultivate at different times to differing degrees of success).
Perry still has much to prove — and concerns about his electability are understandable — but a comeback isn’t out of the question.
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