Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tolerance Not Approval

As Perry Rises, G.O.P. Elite Look Toward Romney--NYTimes.com

It’s probably not surprising to see members of the Republican establishment seek shelter and safety by moving toward the candidate they feel is least likely to make too many waves in the 2012 general election. However, it is interesting to see how fast some members of the GOP elite are backing away from Perry and embracing Romney. Elites like Tim Pawlenty and even Fraters own Brian “Saint Paul” Ward.

During last night’s debate, SP was offering some rather harsh, but largely valid criticism of Rick Perry via Twitter. I asked if this meant that he would support Romney instead as that increasingly seems like the choice that we’re going to be faced with. Somewhat to my surprise, SP said that yes, if the choice were to be between Romney and Perry, he would favor Romney. In fairness to SP, he’s long been a Newt Gingrich man and I’m sure he wishes that Mr. Gingrich’s candidacy was more relevant than the amusing sideshow that it has become (as do I). His support for Romney is not based on any particular passion for the former Massachusetts governor, but rather a notable distaste for the chief alternative.

I find myself in the opposite camp. Looking ahead to the 2012 election, my motto is “anybody but Obama.” When it comes to the GOP primary campaign, my motto is “anybody but Romney.” I didn’t trust Romney’s core convictions in 2008 and I have had no reason to change my mind since then. It’s not that I’m a big fan of Rick Perry’s either. At this point, there’s still a lot we don’t know about him and his views and it’s quite possible that I will end up deciding that he is not the best chance that Republicans have of defeating President Obama with a candidate not named Mitt Romney. But for now, he appears to be just that.

If you look at three critical issues for the 2012 campaign; jobs, entitlement reform, and health care and compare Perry and Romney’s positions, I believe Perry has the upper hand on all three. I can understand why people are concerned with Perry’s issues with immigration, vaccinations, and cronyism, but I don’t think any of those are deal breakers. Yet.

Jonah Goldberg offers good insights on these dynamics in a piece called Romney, Perry, Pawlenty and the likability factor.

On Pawlenty:

Let's be fair: That might have worked. But so might have talking like the guy we saw with Colbert. The one time I met Pawlenty, at the governor's mansion in 2008, he was a wry, sharp, funny character. As a presidential candidate, however, he seemed more like a nerdy high school assistant principal awkwardly trying to rev up the student body before the homecoming game.

Harsh, but true.

On Romney:

Romney's problem is more acute. Romney has an authentic inauthenticity problem. There are some animals that just seem fake when you see them in real life for the first time; sharks and alligators come to mind. Last year, I took my daughter swimming with a dolphin. Not only did the creature look like it was made of plastic, it actually felt like it was made of rubber.

I have shaken Romney's hand a few times, and I can say he feels surprisingly lifelike. But politically he just seems fake, even though what you see is what he really is. Romney is a much better candidate than he was in 2008, but there's still something about the guy that makes people say, "There's just something about that guy." And given Romney's rich history of flip-flops, he just seems untrustworthy to the tea-fueled base of the GOP.


On Perry’s current edge:

Republican voters really want to beat Obama. But they also really want to like their nominee. Right now, Perry is in that sweet spot.

“Like” is too strong a word for my feelings about Perry. I would love to be able to like the GOP nominee (see Ryan, Paul). For now, I’ll settle for “tolerate.” And for now at least, I’ll settle for Rick Perry.