Godot is always more impressive before he shows up. We'll see if that's the case with Governor Rick Perry, whose Mystic And Long-Awaited Advent is at hand. If I were Mitt Romney, I’d be trying to book some couples therapy sessions with the electorate, stat.
Things seemed to be going so well. No, I’m sorry, they never seemed to be going particularly well. They were always a little awkward, as though Frontrunner Mitt couldn’t believe his luck and suspected that soon, we were going to run out of non-awkward conversation material.
“What about healthcare?” we’d say.
“Ah,” he’d hem. “Well, to begin with — oh, hey, I just remembered, I’m supposed to be denouncing the debt ceiling negotiations right now. Catch you soon!”
The pizzazz (or maybe it's pizzas) has gone out of our relationship. Thursday he commented that “corporations are people, my friend.” There was context for this — someone advocated taxing corporations, and he was trying to point out that corporations are not giant piles of money you can tap at will, but instead groups of many hard-working people working to make giant piles of money they can tap at will. But see if that registers as the quote echoes.
And along comes Perry, pulling up in a low-slung truck and $2000 cowboy boots outside the race that Romney has been working on for so long, honking the horn impatiently for the electorate to hop in. "You have got to be kidding me,” Romney mutters. He has been working so hard. He was trying to change for us and now it seems we don’t want him.
“Rick Perry?” Mitt exclaims. “Rick Perry? Rick Perry of Texas? Did you see his grades? Rick Perry of the nation’s worst state in percentage of population over 25 with high school diplomas? Rick Perry of the number-one state for executions, number-one state for five types of air pollution, number one-state for percent of population that lacks health insurance? That Rick Perry? Rick Perry, whom a voter once praised by saying, ’It takes balls to execute an innocent man’ without a whiff of irony?Are you kidding me?”
“Haven’t we been over this?” Mitt asks, coughing “2000! 2004!” loudly into his sleeve and clearing his throat. “I didn’t realize it was still possible for the electorate to get excited about a white guy from Texas in cowboy boots.”
Rick Perry is the prisoner's dilemma candidate. It seems logical to pick him, every time — but then what? He's less Mormon than Romney. He's taller than Bachmann. He looks more presidential than Pawlenty and his name uses syllables more economically. His grades are
about as good as more human-like than almost anyone's.
But the contrast with Romney is starkest. Unlike Romney, Perry has governed with a complaisant legislature. Texas has created jobs — at Walmart, sure, but who’s counting at this point?
Mitt has stopped wearing ties. Did Perry ever start?
Mitt tries to explain the economy to us reasonably, sometimes calling corporations people in the process. Perry prays about it.
Worst, Mitt is from Massachusetts. Excluding the District of Columbia, Massachusetts is the most-educated state in the nation, in terms of percent of population with high school degrees. It has the highest percentage of population with health insurance.
And somehow this is looking to be a handicap. After all, Perry is from Texas.
We have an inexplicable weakness for Texans. Twenty-five states have never produced a president. Texas — only a state since 1845 — has given us Bush, Johnson, and (if you go by birthplace) Eisenhower. Things are bigger there, including electoral vote totals. With friends like Texas, people no longer beat you up in the the lunchroom. People there only wear plaid unironically. And you don’t need to hang out with Massachusetts any more.
So Mitt, you need to get your act together. You have a lot going for yourself. You have business experience. You believe that climate change is happening — so Al Gore will not yell at you, the way he has been increasingly prone to doing lately, using words like "bull****” at the Aspen Institute. These are qualities that may appeal to the general voter, who might be a little unnerved by all this praying and executing.
But this is the trouble with the primaries. Romney can’t conceivably run to the right of Perry. He’s run far enough right already that he appears dizzy and confused when posed simple questions about the weather.
And that’s where Perry comes in. Whether Perry turns out to be a winner and a game-changer and a mover and shaker and general go-getter, or to fizzle out almost instantly after entering, one thing is certain: he is Not Mitt Romney.
Right now, that sounds oddly appealing.