For Republicans the inevitable has happened. We now have a Class A conservative competing with a Class A moderate to face a vulnerable liberal incumbent Democrat in 2012. Both Perry and Romney have significant records of success (Romney in business; Perry in government); both have national networks (Romney from his 2008 run; Perry from his chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association); both are prodigious fund raisers; both have been governors; both appear to have unblemished personal histories. A welterweight or two may remain in the hunt, but these are heavyweights.
1. Perry is legitimately "down home." In Austin his schtick included hosting a Texas-style BBQ for several hundred conference participants, casual western dress, and an afternoon at a rifle range for a few VIPs. He mingles well, has a lot of Texas small talk, and is a gracious host. His roots, life story, and politics are all transparent.
2. He enjoys being "in your face." With the more moderate California group containing many potential donors he enjoyed explaining that his primary reason for being in California was to recruit businesses interested in moving to Texas. The style plays well in Texas and is OK with core Republicans. With others, not so much.
3. He also enjoys discussing policy and economic development. A primary talking point is tort reform which resulted in an increase in doctors moving to Texas, particularly to poor areas. On taxes, regulation, and appreciation for business he justifiably relishes the position of being the anti-Obama.
One has to have some sympathy for the liberal media. Perry can fairly be criticized for the Texas's low ranking in public education funding and health care; he has offered many exploitable quotations on secession, social security, Medicare, and the Federal Reserve; his speech cadences even sound like George W. Bush. Liberal minions like Paul Krugman will make laughable efforts to show that Texas' leadership in producing jobs in the past decade is an illusion. Serious students of politics might read "Fed Up", Perry's 2010 book about his "unwavering belief in the goodness of America", unencumbered by big federal government.
The difference between Perry and Romney is real - with President Perry (and the likely Republican House and Senate) you would get a balanced budget amendment, a major downsizing of the federal government, and socially conservative judges. In Newtonian terms, the liberal "action" of the past decade would result in an "equal and opposite reaction". With Perry the reaction would be by brute force. With Romney it would be done withiin the system and would be less complete. (For example - Wall Street reform would be vastly different.)
It will take a month or more for the polls and the frenetic media to settle down; meanwhile Romney ramains the frontrunner, even to knowledgeable conservative observers. The scheduling of Republican primaries (beginning in February with the convention in late August) favors a conservative early, but a moderate later. Romney's strategy will apparently be to remain focused on Obama and his 26% approval rating on the economy; Perry will apparently speak loudly about whatever is on his mind and may well wander into many meaningless minefields. In the end most Republicans and conservatives will vote for ABO.
The Democratic quandry is how much to attack the easily-attacked Tea Party favorite, thus increasing the odds for Romney who would be a much more formidable candidate among swing voters. This choice will undoubtedly occupy President Obama between rounds of golf and his laser-like focus on jobs during his 10 day Matha's Vineyard vacation.
This week's video, for those in low exposure TV markets, is Perry's first presidential campaign ad. A few more may follow.