Texas Governor Rick Perry lost his cool, lost respect, and lost some supporters in Las Vegas. He might have also lost a prime opportunity to shape his image and get back on top in the race for the GOP nomination.
Some have doubted why Mitt Romney would be the GOP nominee for president in 2012, particularly after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s refusal to enter the race prompted a re-focus of attention from both the GOP establishment and President Obama.
For those people, witness Exhibit A: Las Vegas and the CNN/Western Republican Leadership Conference debate Tuesday. Namely, analyze Governor Rick Perry’s “showmanship” that led to creating an absolute sinking of support that made his comeback climb that much harder.
To think, there are people with the Perry campaign team that were “pleased” with the Texas Governor’s performance at the debate. Apparently, being booed by an audience full of western Republicans that should be able to relate to a fellow southwestern native after boorish behavior epitomizes the type of energy the Perry campaign was looking to generate.
Perry’s tactics led to a Trifecta of damaging proportions in his debate defeat Tuesday night. He looked un-Presidential in his emotionalism. He contested the issues with Mitt Romney as if it were debated within a steel cage. He acted as if he were more willing to “go rogue” than be stately during the debate held in the Wild, Wild West.
What’s more frustrating to Rick Perry is that he did himself a disservice by cementing more negatives with Republican and independent voters. He did not differentiate himself from his rivals – not even from one noteworthy fellow Texan. Instead of being a cut above the Republican field for a better future, he came out looking very similar to everything that much of America disliked about the past.
Perry’s cowboy act made him look a lot more like former President George W. Bush than the governor would ever like to be. This is not good when trying to look presidential heading into 2012.
Bush was often harshly criticized for being too much of a cowboy when the delicacies of being president, perhaps, demanded otherwise. When the chips were down for Mr. Perry last Tuesday night, he resorted to finding his inner Bush – and that’s not the best thing for his campaign efforts or his long-term image.
One thing burning Perry to the core is the desire of media and his political opponents to peg the governor as just another Texas Governor looking to become president – and at a time when America has not recovered from their Bush heartburn. However, despite efforts to actively distance himself from Bush’s policies over recent years, the more Perry is on the national stage, the more he comes across as the last former Texas Governor to become president.
Despite his Tea Party temptations for Texas secession a few years back in favor of smaller government and states’ rights, Perry’s HPV vaccine mandate reeks of a big government/Big Brother vein than President Bush’s Medicare Part D plan. Bush’s support for a guest-worker program that was vilified by the hard-core right as amnesty has been trumped by Perry’s Texas DREAM Act as a bigger magnet for illegal immigration.
Now, after Tuesday night’s disconcerted and coarse approach towards attacking Romney and dodging questions, Bush’s faux pas during presidential debates and public appearances pale in comparison in some ways. All that was needed from Governor Perry on Tuesday night was a statement about cowboying a win in a way that would have elicited memories of Cowboy Bush and enemies “dead or alive.” It would have completed an odd mirror to an enigmatic American past – one Perry wants no ties to.
Perry showed a lot of energy Tuesday night. But, he lost a lot of momentum with his performance in a way that may have fatal effects on his presidential ambitions. By trying to address the critique (and comic ribbing ) of being asleep at the wheel of effective debate deliveries, Perry solidified the stereotype of a “tough-talkin’ Texan” looking to fight his way into the White House – one that America might not warm up to. Without quickly finding the political groove that pushed him to an undefeated electoral record in the Lone Star State, Mr. Perry may find himself permanently tied to the Bush/Texas stigma (rightfully or otherwise). If that is so, he may find his hopes for the White House are a falling star from the land where the stars are bright.
Lenny McAllister is a political commentator found Saturdays with host TJ Holmes and fellow pundit Maria Cardona on “CNN Saturday Morning” at 10:30 AM Eastern (9:30 Central / 7:30 AM Pacific.)