Update: I’ll be on MSNBC tonight discussing this very thing. Tune into The Ed Show beginning at 10 Eastern / 9 Central.
It’s been a while since I’ve shared analysis on where I think the Republican Presidential campaign is. Mainly I’ve been too busy laughing at the national pundits who think Rick Perry is toast.
Here’s why, regrettably, he isn’t done yet:
Most importantly, he turned in a decent debate performance last night. And by “decent” I mean he didn’t drool, which is frankly close enough.
Also, while he’s down in the polls now, in the absence of some game-changing scandal, Perry’s poll numbers will soon start to rise. Most of the credit for much of this won’t lie with Perry’s campaign, but rather with the rest of the field.
Mitt Romney is stuck at about 23 percent of likely Republican primary voters. That represents the percentage of hard-core Republicans who aren’t evangelical hard-liners, who are willing to consider voting for a candidate who may be seen as less conservative, especially in terms of his Massachusetts health care plan. In other words, in this day and age, 77 percent of Republican primary voters are hard rightwing whackadoodles who will continue to push the Republican Party and its candidates farther to the right.
The reason Romney is seen as being a front-runner is because his 23 percent is solid. It’s his base, but it’s also his ceiling. Other Republican primary voters are currently dividing their support among the other candidates who, at one time or another, have been or will be the flavor of the week – Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and to a lessor extent, Gingrich.
Therein lies why Perry’s not done – those far-right voters will be forced to take another look at Perry. None of the other candidates has both the money and the organization/network in place to compete against Romney over the long haul. Perry does. The minute Governor Chris Christie and former Governor Sarah Palin announced they were sitting it out this year, Perry’s campaign knew he’d still be in the hunt.
Here are the problems for Perry’s opponents in a nutshell:
Romney is stuck at his 23-ish percent. That’s his base, and that’s his ceiling. He’s a pro-healthcare Mormon, and Republican voters will continue to reject him for each. If that weren’t true, he would have already gotten a big bump after Perry’s fortunes fell, and he got little.
Bachmann is done – she has neither the money nor the organization to be a sustained frontrunner, and has already been permanently rejected by voters as un-electable and somewhat nuts.
Cain’s numbers are looking good currently, but bluntly – and regrettably – I don’t care what Republican primary voters tell pollsters, they will not show up at the polls and vote for an African-American, especially in Southern states. Add that to the fact that he’s about to get the frontrunner treatment, along with its associated scrutiny.
Gingrich is Gingrich. He has enough juice to be a bridesmaid, but not the bride. If he ever achieves frontrunner status, the “family values” crowd will kick in and knock him down. Plus, he’s out of money, and has never had a real campaign.
Everybody else, if they ever reach top tier status, will be in the same situation as Cain or Gingrich – they’ll whither under intense scrutiny, won’t have the money to keep it up, or will otherwise collapse. That’s the most likely outcome for any of them.
So, yeah – bad news, buckeroos: Republican voters have no choice other than to give Perry another look. They may not like what they see, but at least for now, three-quarters of them seem to have an endless capacity for looking at any alternative to the Northeastern rich guy who, by the time his opponents are done swift boating him, will love universal healthcare and hate Jesus.