Rick Perry will be the GOP nominee (if, you know, every day is like today)

CHARLESTON — As Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was still talking to the 2011 RedState Gathering at the Francis Marion Hotel today, I sent out this Tweet from the sweaty, charged-up ballroom:

Brad Warthen@BradWarthen
Brad Warthen

I’ll go out on a limb here, even as he announces, and say Rick Perry WILL be the Republican nominee. But he won’t be president…

And an hour later, somewhat cooled off, I stand by it. Sure, I could be wrong, but if I can’t get at least one overbold statement out of driving down here and stumping around in this steamroom of a town (the only room in the hotel where the A/C seemed to be working was another ballroom where they were having an event called “GOP Leaders Meeting.” After all the leaders were let in, they allowed anyone else who wanted to come in, except for one demographic group: the press.)

So basically, y’all can quit worrying about all this, and pay attention to more fun stuff. I told Tim Smith of The Greenville News (the cowboy hat guy) about my realizations right after the speech, and I could tell he was relieved just knowing what was going to happen. Strangely, he did not close his notebook and head home to enjoy his weekend. He started interviewing RedStaters as though it mattered, as though it weren’t all over. I guess he figured, as long as he had come this far…

Then again, maybe he was hedging his bets, because I could be wrong (I hope that doesn’t shock you). Perhaps I should amend my statement, and say Rick Perry will be the GOP nominee IF every day of the campaign is like today. Yeah, that’s the ticket…

I guess it was fitting that it was so sweaty in that hotel, given all the bottled-up passion. And it was, literally — every SC GOP politician I ran into and shook hands with had sweaty palms. They, unlike the RedState conventioneers, were in full uniform: dark suit, red tie, white shirt. I, who would normally dress that way, did not today. I wore an open-necked shirt, my ragged-cuffed brown chinos, and my cheap sandals from Walmart. And inspired by Trey Gowdy, I did not shave today. Of course, this was Saturday, and I wasn’t speaking to the state’s largest Rotary, but still… he was my role model.

Anyway, back to Rick Perry, even though, as I said, there’s no point talking about it because it’s all over. Why do I think he’s going to be the nominee? Well, here are some of the reasons:

The way he pulled off this free-media coup. Remember the front-page advance story in The State yesterday? Well, there was also a front-page story in the WSJ today, in advance, about this thing that hadn’t happened yet, and written as though this speech in South Carolina was to be the 9/11 of political events, the event That Changes Everything. Based on the play of similar stories last night on the websites of the WashPost and the NYT, I’m guessing those, too, were on their respective fronts (those of you who have seen dead-tree versions of those today can confirm or deny).

He did this in the face of THE biggest event of the GOP nomination contest thus far. You may not have noticed (none of the media here was noticing), but the Iowa Straw Poll was held today. Perry was not on the ballot. And it seemed clear by the way media were treating this event that that didn’t matter a bit. THIS was the event. Forget those other guys and gal. As the WSJ put it today:

Everything about the Perry launch is designed to poke a finger in the eyes of the other candidates. His Saturday speech comes on the same day as a closely watched GOP straw poll in Ames, Iowa, the campaign’s most notable set-piece so far. His name won’t be on that ballot, and his speech seems designed to steal thunder from the event.

His entry is already stirring widespread excitement in elite GOP circles. Many predict he could pick up the backing of an array of top GOP governors, including the influential Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a major fund-raiser in his own right.

And Mr. Perry may already be benefiting from a lack of enthusiasm for other candidates, as polls show that none has garnered support from even a quarter of the GOP electorate. Mr. Romney’s Massachusetts health-care law, Rep. Michele Bachman’s relative inexperience and Tim Pawlenty’s inability to catch fire appear to have left the door open for a new candidate…

How successful was this stunt in pulling free media? Well, you can see the media mob scene. You might say, well, you’ve seen ’em that big before. So have I, but not that often, outside of a national convention. And I asked conference publicist Soren Dayton, just before Perry spoke, for his perspective on it. He said that at last year’s RedState conference, in Austin (with Gov. Perry in attendance), he had “zero” media to deal with. Today, he had 120 of the unruly creatures.

But the press can show up and do all the front-page stories about the Perry juggernaut (before it even starts rolling) all they want. That doesn’t nominate presidential candidates, does it? Well, the thing is, Perry showed up and met expectations — not only of the ink-stained wretches, but of the salt-of-the-earth (just ask ’em; they’ll tell ya) folk who show up at a conference like this one. And they had turned out en masse as well. Dayton estimated the crowd in that room about about 750, and there was a spillover room. I found myself wondering whether it was any cooler there…

It was not cool where we were, I can assure you. Aside from the humidity, Perry was on and hot and the crowd was hot, too (over that Obama, of course). And Perry, bringing all the talents of a bareknuckle Texas politico and a wannabe televangelist, threw them all the certified USDA RedMeat this RedState crowd could inhale. And they feasted on it. Watch the video. It doesn’t capture the sound fully, or the atmosphere (especially the humidity), but you’ll get an idea about how easily he spotted all their political erogenous zones and stroked them mercilessly.

He used every cliche in the book, and the tone of the response clearly said that this folks had never heard anything like it! They had waited their whole lives to hear a candidate — to hear anyone! — say these things! Such insights! He was their hero. Afterwards, I didn’t interview anyone for their reactions, because I had heard their true, spontaneous, visceral response. It wasn’t the most intense crowd response I’ve ever heard — I’ve visited black churches. It was more like the feel of the Sarah Palin-Nikki Haley rally last year, turned up several notches. (And of course, many of the same things were said — only in a more masculine manner.) I only recorded two reactions from individuals. As I was leaving the room, a woman behind me said, “I got chills!” A moment later, a man said, “He’s very direct.” Who could argue?

With this crowd (and this crowd was a great litmus test for the nomination — but not for election), he came across more clearly than any other Republican running this cycle as the AntiObama. And that’s the key, right? Because we all know where the emotional center of this passion lies.

At one point during the speech, I posted back-to-back Tweets that may have seemed to contradict each other. First, I wrote, “It astounds me that a crowd like this so wildly applauds assertions that are… obvious… things everyone knows, that OBAMA believes…” Then, I said, “Perry definitely positioning himself, more clearly than anyone, as the hyper-aggressive anti-Obama.”

What I meant was that whether he was saying things that everyone knows and believes, painfully obvious things (such as pointing out that every tax dollar had to be earned first by the sweat of an American taxpayer, which this crowd greeted like it was the most fresh, original and profound thing they had ever heard), or mischaracterizing what that wicked Obama and his minions believe in order to define what he (and everyone in the crowd!) opposed so passionately, it was all about saying that he, Rick Perry, was the one who believed, with the greatest purity and passion, all the right and good things that true Americans believed, and the one guy with the know-how, strength and determination to undo all the foolish evil associated with “Washington, D.C.” in general and Barack Obama in particular.

Some examples that illustrate what I was trying to say in that run-on sentence just now (most or all are on the video above, and most or all were applause lines):

  • “Washington is not our caretaker.”
  • “In America, the people are not subjects of the government; the government is subject to the people.”
  • “It is up to us, to this present generation of Americans, to take a stand for freedom, to send a message to Washington that we’re takin’ our future back from the grips of these central planners who would control our healthcare, who would spend our treasure, who downgrade our future and micromanage our lives.”
  • “And we will repeal this president’s misguided, one-size-fits-all government healthcare plan immediately!”
  • “We’ll get America working again.” (This, they say, is to be his campaign theme.)
  • “And I’ll promise you this: I’ll work every day to try to make Washington, DC, as inconsequential in your life as I can.
  • “… basing our domestic agenda on importing those failed Western European social values…”
  • “We don’t need a president who apologizes for America. We need a president who protects and projects those values.”
  • “America is not broken; Washington, DC, is broken.”

If you want to hear the whole thing, here is my audio.

Again, I could (theoretically) be wrong in my predictions. This guy hasn’t been tested in the bigs (although there’s no bigger farm team than Texas) beyond this one speech. We’ll see. But right now, I expect this is the guy the GOP will be nominating at their convention about this time next year.

32 thoughts on “Rick Perry will be the GOP nominee (if, you know, every day is like today)

  1. Brad

    Oh, as for the “But he won’t be president” part. In case the reasons for that are not obvious, I’ll elaborate.

    I’ve written before about my expectation that Obama will prevail over whomever the GOP seems inclined to put up against him. Things have changed since then, including the GOP’s successful bid to turn the debt ceiling crisis into a series of economic disasters likely to cause the voters to hate ANY incumbent, much less that Obama fellow.

    And Perry, of course, is a nearly champion for all those who dislike everything about the incumbent.

    But that’s the thing. He’s so much like what they want that it’s questionable that he can ever move back to the middle convincingly enough to win the general election. The very things that make him perfectly suited to get the nomination make it unlikely he can win the support of the rest of us. And his history indicates he’s not particularly inclined to move to the middle for the general. He doesn’t have to in Texas, of course.

    But we’ll see, right?

  2. Mab

    WSJ: “His entry is already stirring widespread excitement in elite GOP circles.”

    That must be the only place. Were his standing ovations on par with Nikki Haley’s? What hypocrisy.

    I like Perry better in Texas. NIMBY.

    He’s all or nothing.


    HISTORY TODAY (The State, p. A2)

    Saturday, August 13

    In 1932, Adolf Hitler rejected the post of vice chancellor of Germany, saying he was prepared to hold out “for all or nothing.”

    I hope Perry ends up with nothing.

  3. Brad

    Here’s a key to the photos above:

    1. Intense media interest on display outside the hotel.
    2. Even more so INSIDE the ballroom. 120 media types were credentialed.
    3. Sen. Larry Grooms chats with Tim Smith of The Greenville News.
    4. The candidate speaks. I have several such images here because I tried over and over, with two cameras, to get a setting that would provide a decent, well-exposed, focused image at this distance — and kept failing.
    5. After the speech, this conference-goer nonchalantly exhibits his souvenir. I didn’t notice these DURING the speech. Only outside, after.
    6. The sign-in desk. They didn’t have my credentials, despite my having arranged for them. But they took care of me when I dropped the right name (Soren Dayton), and gave me a very simple “PRESS” badge with my name scribbled on it with my own pen, because someone had run off with their Sharpie.
    7. The only cool room in the buiding. You could feel the blessed relief wafting out through the door. But no press allowed. Some sort of reception for GOP bigwigs.
    8. These reporters had the right idea — just go ahead and write the blasted thing while it’s going on (or, in this case, before). They also have young, supple backs to be able to operate laptops in these positions without being crippled.
    9. I don’t know why, but “Gov. Haley” was written on a piece of masking tape on the floor next to the press risers. She was there earlier in the day, but I doubt anyone had assigned her to stand in that spot…
    10. Perry.
    11. Perry.
    12. Perry. As you can see, the bright lights (against dark surroundings) and the distance kept me from getting anything good with either my Canon or my iPhone. No, I don’t have a Nikon with a 500mm lens…

  4. Ralph Hightower

    Using hackneyed cliches

    Is Perry promising to run Guvment like a Bizness like our beloved governot, Nikki Haley? •“We’ll get America working again.”

    I agree with this statement: •“America is not broken; Washington, DC, is broken.”
    To which I say, throw all of the bums out! Including the Tea Baggers http://twitter.com/#!/ralphhightower/fracking-sc-tea-baggers/members

    Some of Perry’s bullet points are longer than what would fit on a bumper sticker.

    But we need leaders who’s “policy” doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker. We need intelligent people in Washington, DC.

    Sentient, carbon-based life forms does not exist in Washington DC!

    Is it any wonder that the “V” aliens didn’t park themselves over Washington?

  5. Ralph Hightower

    I hope Perry’s intelligent,; but he’s from Texas, home of George W. Bush, so I’m not expecting greatness. Okay, POTUS #43 did exhibit leadership and such after 9/11. But this hyperpartisan angst has existed since Clinton was President.

    But none of the current candidates are any that I could rally behind. The current candidates are the Three Stooges expanded to the Seven Dwarfs.

    Okay, I want Michele Bachman in the race for the entertainment value provided on Jon Stewart’s show and the Colbert Report, and Saturday Night Live.

    Tina Fey did a bang-up job of Sarah Palin.

    Who is the comedian that does Bachman better than she can?

  6. Steven Davis

    At this point, Haley could beat Obama. He’s losing moderates and starting to lose his Democrat base. Even the black voters are frustrated with his inability to do anything.

  7. SusanG

    I agree that Rick Perry will be the nominee — we got one of those robo-calls for a town meeting and I stayed on and listened to him, and he did seem to be better than the other Repub candidates at saying all those Republican things.

  8. Herb Brasher

    Another governor from Texas. I mean, that’s my home state, but . . . we sure have had a lot of Lone Star politicians in the last 5-6 decades. And the economy is going to be an issue for the incumbent this time around. This isn’t 1964.

  9. bud

    Just two words: Fred Thompson. Perry is in the top tier but it’s not his turn. Not saying he won’t be the nominee but at this point the ‘bud’ odds suggest he’s only running in a tie for second. It’s just too early to get excited about any of this stuff.

    The only real news out of Iowa was Tim Pawlenty’s poor third place showing. He was already a long shot but he’s probably even more so today. Otherwise the race is little changed.

  10. bud

    Steven is about half right. Obama is frustrating his base and that will cost him. Lefties won’t vote for the Republican of course but could just sit this one out. That’s what I’ll do if a couple more “compromises” occur. If we aren’t completely out ouf Iraq by Dec 31 I’ll stay home. If all the Bush tax cuts are extended again I’ll stay home. If Obama agrees to gut SS or medicare I’ll stay home. No point in voting GOP lite if you can have the real thing.

  11. Mark Stewart

    A moderate Republican, not Romney, might beat Obama. Otherwise, it’s a lot of noise signifying nothing: None of these candidates are electable on a nationwide basis.

    Between religion and racism, a lot of people remain very confused and unable to cut through their personal narrow-minded biases. But they are still the minority, whatever they may believe.

  12. Brad

    Steven, in answer to the crude remark I did not approve, it felt very much like being in a roomful of enthusiastic Democrats. At least, I think so. The last time I was in a roomful of enthusiastic Democrats was roaming around Jim Hodges’ victory party in 1998. And I can tell you that was pretty uncomfortable since I had done everything I could to convince voters to vote for the other guy and they all knew it. But they were too happy to be mad that night. Everybody was pleased to see even me.

    The last time before that was probably in Atlanta the night Dukakis was nominated in 1988. They were so pumped; some had tears in their eyes. And I thought it all very strange — Michael Dukakis seemed to me the last candidate in the world anyone should get excited about.

    You may find it hard to understand how much like an outsider I feel at these things. I remember being at a Madison County (TN) Democratic gathering in the early 80s, and a lady asking me what I thought of the proceedings. Since she was a friend (an older lady of a prominent family who wrote, part-time, a sort of “society” column for the paper), I was brutally frank. I said I found politicians engaging and entertaining, but I could no more feel any identification with them than I could monkeys in the zoo. (I was a bit hard to take in my early, arrogant days.)

    As soon as it was out of my mouth, I regretted it, because I remembered in that instant that her son was running for the legislature.

    I’ve regretted that comment often since, because a change came over me as I matured. I went from contempt and not giving a damn about anything but the story to actually caring about what happens to my community, my state, and so forth. I began to care deeply about the right people getting elected, and the right policies being followed, for the overall benefit of the community.

    But while that nasty edge is gone from it, while I no longer feel cold indifference, there is still that sense of alienation. While I fully recognize and appreciate the humanity in the people around me at such an event, I’m very aware that, as party people — as people who can care about and support a party — they are very different from me.

  13. bud

    (I was a bit hard to take in my early, arrogant days.)

    And those were different from today how?

    Seriously, this election really is about Obama vs xxx. Fill in the blank with any of the names and the result will be the same. Romney will probably win and I predict he’ll wrap it up by Easter Sunday. Rick Perry is just too much like another Texas governor. The dems can and should exploit that similiarity.

  14. Steven Davis

    So then why do you attend? Why go somewhere where you’re the unwelcome party? It’s like attending a wedding reception you weren’t invited to. Everyone knows it, yet you still go. Sure they may shake your hand and exchange pleasantries, but once their backs are turned they’re asking the others why the hell “he” showed up.

  15. Juan Caruso

    @ Mark Stewart
    “A moderate Republican, not Romney, might beat Obama.”

    This is traditionally true. What negates that conventional wisdom this time is the 10% approval rating of the government sitting in D.C. as we write.

    Consider the lightning rods of dissatisfaction: Reid, Pelosi, DeMint and Boehner. Please, tell us which of these is not a career politician?

    What we face is an establishment of political leaders who meet privately to defy the will of the people and pretend the result is their colleagues fault — a convenient excuse for mismanagement by the wealthiest career politicians lobbyists can bribe.

    The most amazing ‘hope’ aspect of the Obama administration may be the recent admonishments of Philadelphia’s mayor to parents of rioting youth.

    Obama’s regime can survive because anything is possible, but given the totally horrendous risks involved with leadership of the next administration, the only Republican candidates who cannot be elected are establishment RINOs (e.g. Romney, Hunter) and message equivocators (e.g. Mr. West, Bachman), in my opinion.

    Heck, the backlash against candidates with Juris Doctors degrees is gaining momentum among voters who understand the imminent danger of the “Lawyer-Political Complex”.

  16. Doug Ross

    There are only four people who have any shot at winning the nomination: Romney, Perry, Paul, and Bachman. Palin won’t run – although I’d like her to just to watch her get destroyed trying to push her cliches and ignorance.

    It’s funny how the media just pretends Ron Paul doesn’t exist even when he finished a very close second to Bachman. They just can’t wrap their heads around people who are against the war and against big government. He will be in it until the end because he will raise plenty of money.

    He called the collapse of the economy a couple months before it happened (and we are not close to the end of the bubble). He forecast the “blowback” we see from radical Islamists two years before 9/11.

    He won’t win though. Because the electorate is basically a bunch of apathetic and ignorant sheep looking for a shepherd. There isn’t much interest in smart, honest politicians.

  17. `Kathryn Fenner

    @bud–srsly–you would not vote for Obama–effectively voting for an undoubtedly pro-war Republican?


    A former friend declined to vote for Al Gore in 2000 for “principled” reasons. We know how that turned out…

  18. Bart

    And pray tell, what the heck is the difference between the Perry appearance and the Obama appearance at the stadium with Oprah? The media, liberals, Democrats, and young people were fawning all over Obama and Oprah with a much greater degree of enthusiasm. Every platitude known to the left, liberals, and Democrats ever used was rehashed that night along with a lot of new ones.

    Press coverage? Damn, it was like the first presentation of a prince to his subjects on the event of his being corronated king in a few months.

  19. bud

    After a dreadful start Tim Pawlenty has bowed out of the GOP race. I predicted he would fare poorly about a month ago while at the same time Nate Silver had him in the top tier. Not sure what Nate was looking at. It seemed obvious he was doomed after the first GOP debate in New Hampshire.

    So where does that leave us? Mitt is still the favorite at even odds. Perry and Bachmann are duking it out for the evangelical, tea party vote. Whichever of those two edges ahead is likely to go head-to-head with Romney. And everyone else is essentially irrelevant. Not sure what New Gingrich is hoping to accomplish with just 2% of the vote. Ron Paul has his groupies who will stay with him to the bitter end. But he has no room to improve on his second place finish. He’s the ultimate bridesmaid. Cain is an interesting sort but with no political experience he won’t get very far. Rick Santorum could improve his standing somewhat as Newt continues on his race to the bottom. Still, Rick is a decidedly second tier candidate who will likely not last past Valentine’s day.

  20. Steven Davis

    @Kathryn – Regardless of who runs against Obama, Obama is going to get slaughtered unless things seriously turn around in the next year.

    I bet Bush Jr. could run for a 3rd term and beat him.

  21. David

    @bud–srsly–you would not vote for Obama–effectively voting for an undoubtedly pro-war Republican?


    If one is to vote for President Obama because the GOP candidate is worse, you could have at least picked, as an example of that difference, a policy area — healthcare, taxes, social issues, etc — where there is a noticable separation between the two.

    Also, only in our Black/White, Good/Bad, Democratic/Republican country would a non-vote for [x] be considered a vote for [y].

  22. Mab


    Don’t be discourged — be mad.


    Et tu, DeMint? Is this who you wanted us to keep our powder dry for?


  23. Mike Folsom

    My political gut says you have nailed it pretty well – it will be a Perry vs Obama race. Romney was old toast when he had the first meeting of his 2012 campaign insiders. As an expat from Alabama how he thinks he will survive the South is beyond me. But hope does spring eternal as they say –

    Working off this insight I’m really curious how things will fall apart for Perry. For the Independents in the crowd its just too soon to elect another Republican Texas Governor to the Presidency. They have been there and done that and won’t do it again for quite a while. But that’s why he will loose the race in Nov now how his campaign will fall apart.

    My question is who will unravel the “Texas Miracle” for the joke it is? Who will prove the old Texas quip true about Perry when Bush resigned and became Pres? Will it be the press, the Texas State Legislature or will his opposition in the Primary do that honor for us?

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