This morning I had a cordial back-and-forth with Aaron Stevens on Twitter over my rather faulty memory of the all the back and forth and rise and fall of the various candidates in the way-too-long pre-voting phase of the GOP primary race.
Aaron and I seem to be on the same page on one thing, and that is that we would both deeply love it if Rick Perry could find a way to get back some momentum and challenge the current front-runners.
But where we were in conflict as to what the original downfall of the Perry campaign. Aaron cited the Gardasil and immigration controversies, while I was pretty sure there was a third thing… wait, what was that third thing again… oops.
Now I admit that, not having much of a personal following, and being stuck in a state that doesn’t get its say for three more months, my motivation to pay sharp attention to every little swerve may not be as great. I’m still pretty well resigned to being told who my nominee is before I get a real say about it.
But I’m nothing if not willing to confront my mistakes, so I decided to retrace for myself the decline of Rick Perry’s popularity in the GOP polls. For that I referred to the timeline on RealClearPolitics that has been cited previously here on RedState.
I recommend you click the first link above as the chart there is interactive and very revealing.
Perry’s popularity peaked on September 12th, the day Michelle Bachmann went after him over the Gardasil controversy (and shortly thereafter took herself out in the process). But as late as October 1st, Perry still had a useful lead on Romney, with nobody else close.
Then, abruptly, Perry went into a nosedive while the Cain campaign began its doomed rocket ride.
So what happened that week? What was the big event on or about October 1st that allowed Cain to steal all of Perry’s support away?
That’s right, the friggenhead rock.
Remember also how when the story first broke how Cain was more than quick to declare the whole thing a case of “insensitivity” on Perry’s part.
Now, a lot of us here were all, “really?” about this story. And of course we had a chuckle at the sight of reporters desperately combing the countryside looking for that piece of granite that would destroy one of their greatest enemies.
But in hindsight, it appears that while we were chuckling, the rank-and-file GOP voter bought into the story rock-line-and-sinkerhead, and abandoned “insensitive” Perry for “victimized” Cain in droves.
Given how quickly and thoroughly that non-story fell back into well-deserved obscurity, it’s easy to scoff at the idea that that item, of all things, could be what altered the dynamic of the GOP primary race and left us with the relatively unpalatable choices we have today.
But the numbers scoff back, and there’s just no way around the simple fact that the majority of Rick Perry support walked out on him during that peculiar episode in early October, and never came back.
There’s really nothing good that can be concluded from this. And maybe, just maybe, there lie more twists in the tale between now and Iowa, or now and Super Tuesday. Failing that, though, I think there’s a lot of self-examination that will need to be done, to get to the real truth of how we ended up here.