As Perry fumbled his way through last night’s Republican primary debate, though, the Texas governor seemed a lot more like Howard Dean in 2004 — a candidate, again, who many Democratic primary voters wanted to support, because he was speaking their language and gleefully throwing insults in the teeth of a president they hated, but also a candidate whose weaknesses were obvious enough that he couldn’t finally make the sale.
One interesting quality that Perry has in common with Dean, and which last night’s various back-and-forths brought out, is the extent to which both his national profile and his personal affect are much more ideological than his actual gubernatorial record. Dean was a center-left and fiscally conservative governor who rebranded himself as the leader of the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” and whose public persona on the campaign trail — as a stridently anti-Iraq War Vermonter who changed churches over a bike path dispute — seemed to embody all the stereotypes associated with blue state liberals. Likewise, Perry is a Texan Gaullist (corporatist, pro-immigration, HPV vaccinating, etc.) who has rebranded himself as an anti-New Deal Tea Partier, and whose heat-packing, convict-executing, treason-accusing persona makes him seem like the perfect embodiment of the current right-wing id.
But whereas Dean wasn’t often attacked from the left during the 2004 race (save over his professed desire to be the candidate of “guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks”), Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are all happy to exploit Perry’s ideological deviations, which left the Texas governor taking fire from the center and the right alike last night. Maybe this will just toughen Perry up and make him a more nimble and formidable general election candidate. But he didn’t look particularly nimble or formidable on the CNN stage; he looked overconfident and ill-prepared.
During the Dean bubble of 2004, National Review ran a famous cover story showing a ranting Dean over the banner: “Please nominate this man.” If I were running a left-wing magazine — The Nation, Mother Jones, Tina Brown’s Newsweek — I would consider recycling that cover line with Perry’s picture over it.
September 13, 2011
Douthat: “Perry is the Howard Dean of 2012”Posted by greg varner under Politics | Tags: perry, rick |
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