Not Perry is doing even better than Not Romney. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton) (Stephen Morton/AP)

So the race is on.

Not for second place — for last place.

It’s tighter than it looks. In fact, according to a recent Public Policy Poll, Buddy Roemer is beating Rick Perry. The most common response to hearing Buddy Roemer’s name, for most Americans, is to say, “Huh?” or “Whozat?” depending on your region of origin. Buddy Roemer is that guy who hasn’t polled well enough to come to any debates. Buddy Roemer is the Yeti of the Republican field – only those who believe in him see him, and even they only manage to get grainy footage that might be of a squirrel.

I got a press release from him Saturday morning that identified him as “a candidate for President of the United States” whose unique claim to fame is that he has refused to take money from anyone, which explains neatly why no one has heard of him. Even Rick Santorum never refused to take money from anyone. When he languished all over Iowa for months with a tiny bank account, taking rides from strangers, this was not by his choice.

But now Roemer’s beating Rick Perry. And their combined vote totals still don’t exceed 3 percent.

You see? Money doesn’t count as much in elections as we’ve been led to believe! (Well, for up to 3 percent of voters, anyway.) It can’t compensate for that rare, elusive quality of Not Being Rick Perry.

Say what you will about Rick Perry, everyone’s heard of him. His problem has never been that he lacked funds. The deficiencies of his campaign — and Romney’s, in a different sense — have all been illustrations of the old adage that there are, alas, one or two things money still can’t buy.

In Iowa, Perry spent something like $300 per vote. And somehow he’s losing to Buddy Roemer. People have seen Perry at debate after debate, on commercial after commercial. They aren’t even sure Roemer exists. But if he does, they’d prefer him. Maybe Perry really should have quit those debates when he had a chance.

So New Hampshire is going to be quite interesting.

The results there don’t matter, Perry insists, because he is going to South Carolina, which is going to be like the Alamo.

Remember the Alamo? Clearly, it’s yet another thing Rick Perry remembers only hazily. Now might be a good time to remind him what happened there — the soldiers who barricaded themselves inside the Texas fort all died, and the forces of Santa Anna prevailed. But hey, maybe that’s what he has in mind. He seems to enjoy costly defeats.