More than a few people are a bit perplexed by a point I made in this morning’s post. It was this one:
Third, Perry’s entry would buy Mitt Romney time in the lead. Time is the one campaign commodity that cannot be added to. Every day Mitt Romney leads is a day it becomes increasingly likely Romney is the nominee. If Perry gets in, odds increase that Romney, not Perry, is the nominee.
I view this one as a no brainer, but some of you either disagree or aren’t sure what I mean. Every student of Morton Blackwell learns that political campaigns have three basic commodities: (1) Time, (2) Talent, and (3) Treasure. Of those commodities, talent and treasure are renewable resources to a limited extent. Time is both definite and finite.The constant factor in the 2012 Republican Presidential race right now is that Mitt Romney has the highest name ID of declared candidates. While you and I know who Rick Perry is, we are not normal primary voters. Those people are only now just becoming engaged and they remember Romney from 2008, but many do not know Perry.So Perry would have to build up his name identification and raise money. This leaves Romney in the lead as the clock continues ticking.Every day that the media is focused on the ups and downs of other candidates, including an obsessive media rectal exam of Rick Perry as he gets in and starts hitting the stump is another day that Mitt Romney stays in the lead.This is not to say that Rick Perry getting in makes Mitt Romney the nominee. No, that’s not what I said. The odds certainly increase, but odds and outcome are two different things.If I had to call it right now, I would say Mitt Romney would not ultimately be the nominee. But right now he’s ahead in Iowa, ahead in New Hampshire, and ahead in South Carolina. If any candidate starts attacking Romney right now, instead of hoping for unforced errors or third party attacks, they’ll drive their own unfavorables up, along with Mitt Romney’s. There’s just too much time to go.So Perry, like Palin, getting in would keep Romney at the top longer than he otherwise might be there. In doing so, it allows Romney a prime opportunity to continue increasing his favorability rating and name id.Again, it doesn’t mean Rick Perry getting in ensures a Romney victory. But it does buy Mitt Romney more time as the media fixates on Perry and his dynamic in the field, which is more likely to hurt the rest of the field more than Romney.Time helps Romney, whose “play it safe” strategy right now amounts to running out the clock.If you need just a quick, short hand version, consider this:There is a lot of money on the sidelines waiting to find who is going to be the legitimate leader of the anti-Romney coalition. Rick Perry getting in delays finding that leader, keeping that money on the sidelines, keeping Mitt Romney on top. It really is that simple.