Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekend at Perry's

Despite horrible debate performance after horrible debate performance, backers of Rick Perry are still making the case that he is a viable candidate to go against Obama.

They fall back on lame excuses like "we are not electing a debating champion". They try to divert attention by bringing up Obama's eloquence and how it has not helped our economy. Or they go the opposite direction and point out that Obama is also not quick on his feet by bringing up the "57 states". And then there is the old standby joke about the teleprompter. (Note to the GOP: Republican presidents have used the teleprompter too!)

Watching the attempts to prop up Perry reminds me of the 1980s movie "Weekend at Bernie's".

Debate performances and excuses aside, Perry was a flawed candidate for the general election even before the first time he stepped onto the debate stage. When his name first surfaced,  I was surprised that the GOP would tap again from the well named "Governors of Texas". Especially after the victories Democrats scored running against Bush in 2006 and 2008. Whether Republicans are willing to admit it or not George W. Bush is still seen as a failure by a majority of Americans. Fairly or unfairly.

Besides the ghost of W haunting his campaign, the Perry candidacy brings up all the wrong imagery. A white man speaking with a thick southern accent who advocates states rights, flirted with secession, is not the ideal candidate to go against the first black president.  It also seemed ironic that a man  who  considered secession was now seeking the presidency of the country he wanted Texas to leave.

Perry does represent the modern Republican party which is heavily southern, white and evangelical. And for the last two decades that has been a winning formula for the GOP. But given the demographic trends and the declining rate of religious affiliation, the well is about to dry out.

It is always tempting to stay with what you know. And Perry is what Republican strategists know. I suspect his backers will be able to maintain the illusion that he can still win the nomination for a few more weeks. The illusion that the GOP can be a viable national party without expanding its base. But eventually Perry's presidential bid will be buried just like Bernie was finally laid to rest. And so will the strategy of winning elections by sticking with the current Republican base.