The political world has been jolted by the news that Gov. Rick Perry (R-Tex.) now holds a commanding lead in the latest surveys from Gallup and Public Policy Polling. A 12-point and 13-point lead, respectively, over the once-presumed front-runner, Mitt Romney. And, yet, I can’t shake that deja vu feeling — and that feeling tells me that Romney will be back on top.
We’ve seen this movie before, where an unsettled Republican field gets a burst of energy from someone taking part in the process. Said person says lots of things that play well with the party faithful, which vaults that person to the top or near the top of the polls. Then that person burns out, and the quest for a new GOP 2012 savior continues anew. Of course, I’m talking about Donald Trump. Remember his rise and fall?
The millionaire Manhattanite real-estate mogul and reality television star burst onto the scene in March. His disgusting and dangerous dance with the birthers put him within striking distance of Romney. By May, Trump was toast. While there are some big distinct differences, I find myself wondering if Perry will go the way of Trump.
Perry is a sitting governor and he’s a declared candidate for the Republican nomination. Trump was neither during his brief-but-burned-brightly flirtation. But Perry’s first week of questioning President Obama’s patriotism, calling Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “treasonous” and proudly proclaiming that Texas schools teach creationism is reminiscent of Trump’s birther nonsense. Plays well with the base, but freaks out everyone else. Combine this with Perry’s problematic scribblings about how Social Security is unconstitutional and the one that likened gays to alcoholics (and his campaign’s all-over-the-place response) and I wonder if Perry’s poll vault will be the beginning of the end.
Chris Cillizza wonders the same thing, albeit from another, really interesting angle. Whereas I see potential shades of Trump, he sees potential demons of Fred Thompson and Wesley Clark. Thompson lacked the fire in the belly to really for the Republican nomination in 2008. Clark couldn’t overcome early mistakes in his quest for the Democratic nomination in 2004. But Cillizza issues a great piece of advice when it comes to Perry’s new status.
Early polling is largely based on how much a given candidate is in the news. Voters right now are fickle and not paying terribly close attention — especially when it comes to national polls — and Perry’s big early lead should be taken with a Texas-sized grain of salt.
In this race, saviors real and imagined have come and gone — or are still hanging on for lack of something better to do, I suppose. But there’s one guy who has remained consistent, focused and determined through it all, and that’s Romney. He may be “just one of the guys running,” but he’s proven time and again that he’s got staying power.