I risk being accused of endorsing Rick Perry by saying nice things about his campaign two days in a row, but this is genuinely worth commenting on and is not an endorsement.
Yesterday, I wrote a post that started with Perry as one of the best candidates to beat Barack Obama, but commented on what I perceive to be one of the flaws in his campaign. I wrote, "Of all the candidates running, I think he has one of the best shots, though his internal campaign situation has badly served him and he never should have left Ray Sullivan in his position."
My issue with Ray Sullivan is not personal, nor (as some have speculated) does it derive from his wife assisting the Romney campaign. He is the communications director and, having worked both inside and outside campaigns, it has struck me that the Perry campaign's messaging is erratic — much improved, but still erratic.
But I have to tip my hat to Ray Sullivan and the Perry campaign. Despite my criticisms of Ray, he sent out my post yesterday from the Perry campaign leaving my criticisms intact.
An amateur campaign does not do that. It takes a lot of testicular fortitude to be willing to do that as a candidate and as a communications shop within a campaign.
This is precisely why I think Iowans and others would be out of their minds if they did not take a look again at Rick Perry before settling. After the Michigan debate disaster, Perry has retooled, refocused, and executed a very solid game plan. Rick Perry has finally found his voice and Iowa tracking polls suggest the voters there like what they are hearing.
His conservative populism on the economy and Wall Street is pitch perfect. His message on values connects with voters in Iowa in a way few others do. He has finally hit his stride.
Perry should never have gone into the debates as early as he did. But I say that with 20/20 hindsight that he should have spent a month on the trail doing retail first. It seems clear to me he had a lack of preparation and serious back pain issues, which he is only now becoming comfortable telling the truth about.
The campaign has found its voice, found its stride, and has the strength to send out someone else's writing that contains staff level criticisms. Again, few campaigns would be willing to do that.
I don't know whether Rick Perry can get into the top three in Iowa. It may be too late. But I think with Gingrich's collapse, the rise of Ron Paul, and a Rick Santorum candidacy that has never been vetted (Arlen Specter anyone?), Perry remains perhaps the only candidate who can take on both Mitt Romney in a primary and Barack Obama in a general election.
A veteran, a farmer, and a solid job creator who has never lost an election — I think he deserves another look before we look elsewhere for the Not Romney candidate who can beat Obama.
If you don't like what you see, that's fine by me. It's the second look that matters.