Rick Perry appears politically doomed. But so did Newt Gingrich when all of his staff left in in the middle of last summer to head back down to Austin and work for the Texas governor. Regardless, there is no really believable scenario for Perry to recover that doesn't include an intervention of some sort by the god to whom he so fervently and publicly prays. Perry is down to 4% support in Iowa, trailing in estimable Michele Bachmann. He ranks fifth or sixth but still expects to get a BCS Bowl bid to New Hampshire.
The general thinking among analysts was that when Perry called his own party's constituents heartless for not wanting to help educate the children of undocumented workers, his voters went to the ascendant Herman Cain. The voters that Cain didn't sleep with began bailing out on him when stories of his infidelity went public and he began describing what appeared to be a large portion of the female population as liars. Unfortunately for Rick Perry, those Cainiacs didn't reconsider Ricky; they went on over to Newt. Perry's lack of ability to string together a few declarative sentences did not leave him highly recommended.
This must be painful to pretty boy Perry, if for no other reason than the aesthetic insult. The garrulous and rotund Newt, who has to look and sound like one of the college professors who gave the Texas A&M student his C and D grades, is apparently more politically fetching than Rick. But Iowa is a very, very strange place. They grow corn and presidents and the crops are inconsistent in terms of quality. And there are dynamics that can help Perry.
The most obvious is the conservative, evangelical nature of the GOP electorate. In the last presidential cycle, Mike Huckabee won Iowa with the help of a radical organization of Christians called the Family Leader. Run by a man who has been rejected by voters every time he has run for statewide office in Iowa, Bob Vander Plaats maintains an energetic core membership that will work to elect candidates that share similar philosophies, which tend toward ignorance. He has said publicly that children today would be better off under slavery than President Obama and thinks homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. Vander Plaats' influence, according to Iowa media, has fallen off since 2008 but success in the caucuses is about organization and his group has infrastructure and zealotry and it is considering endorsing either Perry or Bachmann or Santorum. (Romney and Huntsman are out because they are godless Mormons.)
And Perry has other pals. They are heading to Iowa in numbers after Christmas to work the phones and try to get someone to speak for him at each of the caucuses. What a grand way to spend the holidays. These include the Texas attorney general and state comptroller and probably a ton of lobbyists who still have to do business down here in Texas when Rick gets kicked back down south of the Sabine River by the GOP. They are traveling to Iowa on their own dime to see if they can resurrect a candidacy that is intellectually gangrenous.
The worrisome thing is that Newt does not sustain as a man of mass appeal. His sundry hypocrisies on lobbying and marriage and his unfettered arrogance in the increasing light of TV cameras are all virtually certain to harm him. And when voters begin bailing on Newt, where do they go? No, not Perry. This may be Ron Paul's time. Mitt Romney might be able to beat the president in a general election but he is too moderate and too Mormon to win his party's nomination. Watch for Ron Paul to surge in Iowa as January approaches.
But both parties ought to think about why they let Iowa have this kind of influence in the nominating process. Nobody paid any attention to their caucuses until 1976 when Jimmy Carter came along and thought, strategically, it might be a good way to gain momentum going into New Hampshire. He was right then.
But letting Iowa play this role now is all wrong.
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