Earlier in the year I wrote a few sporadic diary entries and commentaries to frontpage posts describing why I thought Rick Perry would be nominee, and more pointedly, why Mitt Romney was not the actual frontrunner. I'll admit that my beliefs waivered in recent weeks (not because of debate performances but rather because of 'surges' by other candidates, none of whom were Romney). However, as I write this on the 19th of December, I will again re-state by belief that Rick Perry will be the Republican nominee for President, and review the reasons that I continue to believe such.
1. Perry's biggest problem, it seems, is that he didn't debate very well. Compared to the foibles of the other candidates, that's not all that bad. Being knocked out of the limelight gave room for a linear rise-and-fall of others whose policies, personalities, and practices have been reviewed by the GOP primary electorate. First, Herman Cain . . . no need to get into what happened here. Second, the Rise of The Speaker. Regarding Newt, who I readily admit I could vote for in either the primary or the general, I never bought the hype that since all of his personal transgressions had already been "out there," they wouldn't be a big deal in the campaign. This never made any sense to me, as baggage is baggage (unless you're a Kennedy). Couple this with Newt's frequent quasi-proto-extra-non-conservative "stances" that he oft rattles off-the-cuff, and I just don't think he can pull it off with the base. Take for instance his most recent sensationalism of stating that he would basically not respect the judiciary and would, apparently, treat it as a less-than-co-equal branch of government. Yes, that's quite Jacksonian and populist in spirit, but how in the world can those utterings be reconciled with the Conservative-Constitutional-Original Intent notions of rule of law and checks and balances? Answer - it can't. What Gingrich described is the same thing that has conservatives up in arms about the Obama administration's overt decision to not defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which is the law of the land), as well as several-administrations' unwillingness to enforce national immigration laws. In truth, its doubtful Mr. Speaker would ever even attempt to treat the judiciary as he said. But he did say them.
Romney's foibles seem to be different as compared to Newt, at least ostensibly. Governor Romney does not now and probably won't have any hint of scandal about him. By all accounts, the family life is as stable as Gingrich's is volatile. Politically, the worst anyone has yet come up with yet is a braggadocios photo of a young Romney and business partners celebrating a big business deal with "cash money" poking out of their pockets. (Side note - I was amused to hear Mike Huckabee mention in his daily radio address that if only Obama had been old enough at the time, he'd be in the photo too - scooping up all the money that the Wall Streeters were dropping : ) I'd be interested to see if there are any compromising photos of a young Barrack Obama participating in any activities which might make others cringe.
Governor Romney's biggest albatross, as we've always known, is his suspicion among the Republican base that he's not really all that into conservative principles. My take is that its not so much that conservatives believe Romney has a problem with conservative principles (I don't believe he does), but rather he's not ideologically committed one way or another. Should a "big government" solution be deemed the answer then fine and dandy. In this aspect, voters are re-discovering in Newt something that they've always suspected in Romney - namely that conservative constitutionalism is a mildly preferred but not-necessarily-required prescription for what ails America.
2. Perry stands alone as a smaller-government politician with the necessary experience. Take a look at the candidates' philosophies based on their histories (or lack thereof). I've heard several conservative commentators mention (as well as some writers at RedState), how conservatives want less government, but all that the candidates are proposing are government-sponsored solutions. This is true of Mr. Gingrich, and Governor Romney. Even Rick Santorum, who's social and national security conservative credentials are strong, has a problem with the "government is the answer" issue. Senator Santorum, for better of worse, was a vocal proponent of earmarks, and was part of the Hastert-Frist "drunken sailor" Republican Congress of the 2000's. Michelle Bachman can claim conservative bona fides all the way 'round, but I think her general lack of executive experience will be too big of a hill to overcome. Voters were willing to give an obviously flawed Gingrich a second look based on discontent with Romney and fond memories of the Revolution of '94, but that second look also included a look at policies beyond the debates, which I think has really hurt Newt. Overall, Perry took a small-government approach to governing a big state, and it was generally successful for him. This is not to say that Perry shrank the size of Texas government - he didn't. But there's little doubt that a Texas government under an establishment Republican or a Democrat would have been more muscular and overbearing as compared to what they got with Perry at the helm.
3. Endorsements don't matter. Sure, they're nice to have, but kind of like the same way seat warmers in a car are nice to have. They're great for the first few moments, but after you've sat there a while they really don't matter that much. I thought about this last week when Nikki Haley shocked the tea party world by endorsing Romney over Gingrich, Perry, or Bachman. How many us really believe that committed Tea Partiers that worked to get politicians like Nikki Haley elected will go all-in for Romney in the primary?
4. The Iowa process. Let's not forget its a caucus not a primary. Those round caucus votes going to Bachman will likely go to Perry in later rounds, same with Gingrich would be my guess. I don't see Gingrich and Bachman voters jumping ship in large numbers to Romney or Ron Paul. I think Perry will be likely beneficiary of the system here. And that brings momentum and cash coming in South Carolina and Florida.
So there you have it - why I believe Governor Perry will likely win Iowa, South Carolina, and be on the way to being the eventual nominee. I don't think the road will be as clear for Perry as it was for McCain in 2008, particularly because I think Romney will win New Hampshire, and Florida will prove to be close. However, I do think Iowa/SC will start the ball rolling toward Governor Perry being Nominee Perry, and ultimately President Perry.