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July 28, 2011

Perry Walks Back "Fine With Me" Statement

An update to the last post.

I was just about to write that while Perry's 10th Amendment stance is designed to get him off talking about social issues and permit him to talk about economic issues, it usually doesn't work out that way.

(Actually: "designed" isn't the right word. Perry has been talking up the 10th Amendment for years. So it's cynical to say the position is "designed" for this effect.

But it is accurate to say the position would have a sanguine effect for him in permitting him to focus on truly federal concerns... if he could manage to sell people on it.)

It didn't for Mitch Daniels, for example. What tends to happen is that positions that look like deviations from the social conservative orthodoxy become discussion-bait and wind up making the candidate talk even more about the issue.

In a primary, if you want to talk less about abortion or gay marriage, you have to say "I'm against them, completely." Then conservative activists have fewer questions.

When Perry made his 10th Amendment statement, he referenced New York State passing a gay marriage law, and added "...and that's fine with me."

Now he's been asked if gay marriage is "fine" with him, and he's had to clarify:

Gov. Perry spoke with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins today to addresses the Aspen remarks ...

I probably needed to add a few words after that its fine with me, and that its fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasnt changed.

It's an interesting play; we'll see if it works. Like many other candidates before him -- most of whom failed -- Perry is offering a position that will be strong in the general election, but might be problematic in the primary before it.

It's my tentative guess it works for Perry, partly because it's a position with a good conservative pedigree, and partly because it is my understanding that Perry is a good campaigner. I've never seen the man in action, but from all reports, he's good at this game.

Campaigning is a skill. We may look down on it but almost every man actually elected president was skilled at campaigning and campaign messaging and all the parts of politics that ideologically-motivated people tend to disparage as superficial.

Electoral history is littered with candidates who were "good on the issues" and brought a lot of ideas to the table, but weren't particularly good at persuading people to embrace these ideas.

If the Presidency were an appointed post, such people might make for good presidents. But it's not; the candidate has to make the sale. And candidates who lack the skill of personal salesmanship don't get elected.

"Dear Yankee:" A Texans Introduction of Rick Perry to the Yankee Press: I read this yesterday, and people are talking about it.

Generally I don't like posting stuff like this because this is pure electioneering but people are referencing it in the comments so here it is.

This reinforces the take I've had about Perry (from other people) that:

1. He's conservative.

2. He's a good campaigner and unlike some people actually likes doing it. (Which is valuable: People who like what they're doing are better at doing it, almost always.)

3. He tends to be politically "tough." Toughness is important. I guess what I mean is "willing to be mean when called upon to be mean."

That's important too. We saw what happens in 2008 when a candidate is so intoxicated with his own "honor" he won't be mean to his opponent.

One thing I'll say in Romney's favor -- he was widely disliked by other candidates in 2008 for throwing a lot of sharp elbows and doing a lot of campaign-whispers hits on other candidates.

But I'd've sure preferred Romney doing that in 2008 to Obama, rather than John McCain calling him his "friend" all the time.

Perry doesn't seem mean, but apparently is mean.

Politics ain't beanbag, as they say.

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posted by Ace at 01:18 PM

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