by Lone Shark
It’s been a mere three weeks since Governor Rick Perry jumped into the GOP Presidential primary, and by every indication, Perry’s strategically timed entrance into the race appears to have paid off as he now finds himself the clear frontrunner in the race. Politics is always about timing, and it appears that Perry has seized his window of opportunity with gusto, and he’s consolidated an impressive amount of support in a very short period of time.
Even before he made his official announcement declaring his candidacy, Perry already had sewn up substantial support throughout the state and was leading in an ARG Florida poll conducted at the end of July. Supporters of Perry across the state have held organizational meetings in conjunction with Perry’s campaign, and his hiring of longtime Florida consultant and strategist Randy Enwright, who previously worked for President George W. Bush and Fred Thompson’s campaign in 2008 shows that he’s very serious about Florida’s pivotal role in the nominating process. He’s obtained endorsements of House Speaker Dean Cannon, state senator Don Gaetz, and state representatives Matt Gaetz and Jeff Brandy, and more are rumored to be following very soon.
It’s hard not to notice the scores of Republican activists across the state that are chomping at the bit wishing they were able to get Obama in the ring now rather than having to wait for November 2012. They’re wanting a candidate to emerge from the field pronto- they don’t want a drawn out and unnecessarily contentious nominating process, and it appears that Perry is the beneficiary of this anxiousness. Even though Perry’s name recognition lags behind that of several of the other candidates in the race, Perry has established a double digit lead in several recent polls, and that lead is likely to increase with successful debate performances in September, two of which are taking place here in Florida.
Perry appears to be the candidate that can unite the most factions within the Republican Party- and we’re not just talking about the fiscal, social, and foreign policy wings of the party. Perry hasn’t rankled the Tea Party as Romney has, and libertarian-minded Republicans like his independent streak and unabashed support of the 10th Amendment. His unflappable country charm and manners can soothe the worries of those Republicans who get skittish about anyone they perceive that might challenge the status quo a bit too much for their tastes. And while Perry doesn’t appear to be a Paul Ryan-style policy wonk, his solid grasp of the issues and his ability to communicate them clearly to the masses is of much more consequence to his electability.
Yes, Perry’s got some really bad decisions that he’s going to have to account for, a few of which aren’t defensible. And yes, we’ve still got a long ways before we get into the heart of the primary season- Perry’s vetting is just getting underway. It remains to be seen if he will take a principled stand on illegal immigration and amnesty. And there are plenty of people sighing over the fact that we may have yet another Texas Governor as the party’s standard bearer. Perry will have to quell enough anxieties and convince those who remain undecided that his candidacy is not only the most viable one, but that it also presents the strongest contrast with President Barack Obama’s both in terms of policy and credibility.
Permit me to engage in some speculation for a moment. Perry’s got a longstanding relationship with Governor Rick Scott that could very well point towards to a future primary endorsement for Perry. With Sarah Palin unlikely to enter the race (i’ve been of the opinion that she knows her time is not now and realizes that the country’s fate is vastly more important than her political career), it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Palin endorsed Perry and effectively closed out the nomination for him. Throw in a Rudy Giuliani endorsement for good measure (Perry endorsed Giuliani’s Presidential bid in 2008), it becomes very hard to envision either Romney or Michelle Bachmann overtaking support of that magnitude. So go ahead and scoff, tell me how off base I am or how I’m just an establishment hack that is ignoring the fact that Ron Paul is cruising to the nomination. Or perhaps because I’ve now stuck my fin out, Palin and Giuliani will both be throwing their hats in the ring any day now.
At the end of the day, the folks who decide Presidential elections aren’t too preoccupied with party platforms or policy statements. Those general-election voters vote for candidates- for better or for worse- and they are inclined towards candidates that have looks, charisma, and project an executive persona that commands respect. Perry checks off all of those boxes, and he’s quickly consolidating increasing establishment support with a grassroots base that is readily warming to his candidacy. If Perry can nail his performances in September’s debates- and barring any major gaffes or damaging revelations, of course- it’s looking more and more like the nomination is Perry’s to lose.