The media seems to consider Romney the winner. Pardon the condescension, but they’re not thinking like Republican base voters. … His total liberation from the constraints of reason give Perry a chance to represent the Republican id in a way Romney simply cannot match. In this way Perry eerily apes the style of George W. Bush, who was also mocked for his intellectually vapid debating style, but who succeeded in rallying Republicans behind him.
That, to me, gets at the two most important points here.
The first point is the question of the preferences and power of the GOP elite in the 2012 election. It’s possible that Perry’s guns-blazing stammering– almost certain to come back to bite him in the general election– put off those elites. I don’t know just who those people are, but they’re the ones who designated Bush Jr. as the nominee in 1999 by giving him like $100 million for some reason, and who refused in 2008 to give anything to Huckabee despite the genuine grass-roots enthusiasm surrounding him.
Do those few dozen or few thousand people have a veto on the nominee as they did in 2008, despite the rise of online, small-contribution fundraising and the Tea Party? An empirical question, and I have no idea what the answer is.
The second issue here is the divide between what the GOP’s talking points say vs. what the GOP base wants, importantly in this case on Social Security. Perry was, of course, directly drawing on the GOP catechism when he used “government is bad” as the lodestar for his Social Security comments. (He used the phrase “Ponzi scheme” about five times. He was, of course, telling a monstrous lie). But as Donald Kinder and Cindy Kam found, “among white voters being ethnocentric is associated—independent of self-described ideology and other factors—with decreased support for means-tested welfare”– even though “ethnocentrism helps to build support for social insurance programs among white Americans”.
So the Tea Party is founded on hatred for the government and a fanatical desire to “keep your government hands off my Medicare”.
How does all that play out for Perry? Again, empirical question, no idea what the answers are.
We saw in the debate over the debt ceiling that, even though polls suggested that rank-and-file Republicans were open to some kind of compromise on revenues, there was zero support for compromise from any GOP congressman, much less presidential candidate.
Will there be any penalty in the primaries for a Republican who says stuff that is ostensibly further to the right than the rank and file? I tend to doubt it, given that GOP politics is entirely consumed with “making liberals mad,” without any policy content whatsoever. But it’s possible that Perry is hewing too closely to the talking points without due regard for the base’s desire for them not to apply to Social Security.