One of the byproducts of Newt Gingrich’s meltdown is a resurgence of interest in the possibility of Texas Gov. Rick Perry as a late entrant in the GOP 2012 field. Partly that’s because two of his long-time political advisers were among the hordes who have just left Gingrich’s campaign. Perry himself has been making slightly more positive noises about his interest in becoming the 45th president of the country he once implied Texas might consider abandoning (he will supposedly announce his intentions at the end of the current special session of the Texas legislature, which is due to wrap up before Independence Day). And he’s always been a favorite of handicappers on grounds of his fundraising potential and his popularity among Tea Folk.
I’m a little less sold on Perry as a candidate, if only because he’s never been wildly popular with the people who know him best, Texans (yes, he fought off a primary challenge from Kay Bailey Hutchison last year, and won a relatively close general election race against Bill White, but you have to ask why Perry was so vulnerable in the first place). I’m not sure he’s a great cultural fit for places like Iowa (where he’d been starting from scratch very late) and New Hampshire, either.
But in any event, the game for the immediate future will be guessing how a Perry candidacy would affect the rest of the field, most notably quasi-front-runner Mitt Romney. RedState’s Erick Erickson has an interesting post on that subject making a counter-intuitive but persuasive argument that Perry would help the Mittster:
The constant factor in the 2012 Republican Presidential race right now is that Mitt Romney has the highest name ID of declared candidates. While you and I know who Rick Perry is, we are not normal primary voters. Those people are only now just becoming engaged and they remember Romney from 2008, but many do not know Perry.
So Perry would have to build up his name identification and raise money. This leaves Romney in the lead as the clock continues ticking.
Every day that the media is focused on the ups and downs of other candidates, including an obsessive media rectal exam of Rick Perry as he gets in and starts hitting the stump is another day that Mitt Romney stays in the lead….
There is a lot of money on the sidelines waiting to find who is going to be the legitimate leader of the anti-Romney coalition. Rick Perry getting in delays finding that leader, keeping that money on the sidelines, keeping Mitt Romney on top. It really is that simple.
Erickson might have added more specifically that a Perry candidacy could delay or even endanger the emergence of Tim Pawlenty as the electable-conservative-alternative-to-Romney, which is already being threatened by the strength being shown in Iowa by Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. But that leads me to a contrary observation: If Perry runs, the number of electable-conservative-alternatives-to-Romney would double. By the same token, the odds drop that Romney will get a post-NH match-up against someone (i.e., Cain or Bachmann) considered unacceptable by the Republican Establishment, and/or unelectable against Obama. That’s bad news for Mitt, since the one-on-one-with-a-crazy-person scenario may be the only way Republicans will hold their collective noses and nominate a guy they don’t actually like.