Don’t write off Rick Perry.
You ask, why not?
Because he is going to be the Republican nominee for President and will give Barack Obama a heck of a race next fall.
You are laughing, aren’t you?
If I had made this prediction six weeks ago, you would not have laughed. No, you would have said something like, “Well maybe” or “probably so.”
You would not have been laughing like you are now. You might have let me know that I was stating the obvious and given me a big “So what!”
Not now though.
The last few weeks have not been kind to the governor of Texas.
After his near coronation as Republican nominee when he formally entered the race in August, it has been mostly downhill for Perry:
*The surfacing of remarks made in 1992 in which Perry disparaged North Carolina barbecue, saying that Texas road kill was better.
*Calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme.
*Poor ratings from the media on his performance in the debates with other candidates.
*Press reports about a sign that used a racially charged word to identify his family’s leased hunting ranch,
*The meteoric rise of Herman Cain in the polls and the imaginations of conservative voters.
*Perry’s collapsing poll numbers.
The political pundits have declared him to be road kill. (Remember: North Carolina barbecue is better!) They have moved the conversation from Perry to their current view that Mitt Romney is the almost certain Republican nominee.
So, why do I think Perry will rise again?
First of all, remember John McCain’s campaign for the 2008 nomination. Starting out strong, his campaign faltered in the summer and early fall of 2007. His poll numbers declined. Money ran out. Staff left. Like they did Perry, the pundits wrote him off.
In the early winter, he came back, beating Romney in New Hampshire and surging to the nomination.
Today, Perry has strengths and resources that put him in a better position for a comeback than McCain’s situation in October 2008:
*McCain had run out of money to conduct his campaign. Perry, on the other hand, raised $17 million in the last quarter, more than any other Republican candidate.
*Like McCain in 2008, Perry is not Mitt Romney. So far polls show that 75 percent of Republicans are still unwilling to register support for the current favorite to win the nomination, even though they know him well. While establishment Republicans have lined up behind him, Romney does not excite the “non-country club” voters. Thus, if and when there is a single credible opponent facing Romney, that opponent stands a good chance of winning the nomination.
*None of the other announced candidates are “credible.” Herman Cain is exciting and provocative but will not survive the spotlights that blind an inexperienced candidate. The others are already toast. Perry has been singed but is still very much alive.
*As governor of a large state where money talks, Perry can squeeze more money to fund his campaign.
*Most important, as former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told me a few weeks ago, Perry is “comfortable in his boots.” He talks and acts like the kind of person you would be happy to sit down with and drink coffee—or beer. In this respect, he compares to Ronald Reagan, who, even if you did not like his policies, you liked him. Romney might be just as nice, but he projects stiffness and superiority. In a close contest, the nice, comfortable candidate wins.
So there you have it.
Perry will be the Republican nominee.
But before you place your bets, I need to tell you something. Four years ago I was just as sure Fred Thompson was going to run away with the Republican nomination because he was the only candidate who was “comfortable in his boots.”