DALLAS — After Tuesday’s nowhere showing in the Iowa caucuses, our governor announced he would reassess his campaign. But whether he quits the race now or later, back home in Texas the consensus is that Rick Perry is no George W. Bush.
And as if that isn’t insult enough, the Bush-Perry comparison is a red herring.
Perry’s real failure is his inability to channel another Texan, Ross Perot, hard as he tries. Perot’s the guy who successfully ran as an outsider to politics-as-usual. Bush, who’d already learned his way around the White House as First Son during his father’s presidency, didn’t even try to claim to be an outsider because it wouldn’t have worked.
As the longest-serving governor in the nation, Perry also has little authentic claim to the mantle of outsider, which worked for Perot because the Dallas billionaire hadn’t served in elected office.
And Perot had the charisma of a true zealot when it came to economic issues. He waved around charts and graphs about controlling the federal deficit long before it became de rigueur.
Perot had a salesman’s sense of how to reel in an audience. Who can forget the “giant sucking sound’’ he predicted as jobs drained away to Mexico? Can anyone imagine Perot drawing a blank when trying to name three federal departments he would cut? No, the problem was getting him to stop talking.
Perry, who looks likely to fail at his presidential campaign, has also fouled the nest back home. The January issue of Texas Monthly magazine hands Perry the annual “Bum Steer’’ award – a major poke in the eye for the state’s top officeholder. In fact, the magazine’s “dishonor’’ has only once before been given to a sitting governor, in 1976.
The editors wrote a lengthy note explaining their decision: “Because this is not an award we relished bestowing, we are moved to offer an account of our decision to do so.’’ They chronicled all the Perry campaign missteps, including the debate brain freeze incident.
“We didn’t want to, but we had to’’ label him bum steer of the year, the magazine editors said.
.Lori Stahl is a Dallas-based journalist who covers politics