Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rick Perry's strange decision to keep running


One of my favorite lines from The Office is when Michael Scott proudly and hilariously says:

"I'm not leaving. I'm going nowhere."

That's Rick Perry in two sentences.

He's staying in the race, but doesn't seem to realize he's toast, and instead of seeming resilient and courageous, it just seems stubborn and unrealistic.

Another way of putting it -- he's like an Energizer bunny that keeps going and going but can't power your remote control or anything else.

Perry is running, but he's standing still (and unfortunately for him, not in a cool, Joshua Tree song kind of way).

Apparently, there was dissension in the Perry team over whether he should keep running. Matt Lewis even intriguingly suggested that Perry might drop out sooner rather than later because there are two debates this weekend, and we all know how much Perry hates them.

But something about Perry's jog must have revitalized him. Sarah Palin is fond of saying that sweat is her sanity. For Perry, it might be the other thing.

The reason he tanked in Iowa is the same reason he's tanked everywhere else. He's simply awful in debates or whatever else requires mental alacrity, he still sounds and looks way too much like George W. Bush, and his support wasn't deep enough to overcome that hardened perception.

He spent more than anyone in Iowa, even stirred a little cultural cauldron with his "war on religion" ad, brought in 1 million Texas Rangers to infiltrate the state, fell so far that no one bothered to attack him anymore, and still only managed fifth place.

Maybe he's banking on conservatives giving him another look.

But conservatives have given him innumerable chances, and he's squandered them all.

How many times was everyone ready to forgive him if he put in a strong debate performance (about a million times) and how many times did he actually do it (about 0 times).

One of my favorite lines from The Office is when Michael Scott proudly says: "I'm not leaving. I'm going nowhere."

That's Rick Perry in two sentences.

See what I did there? I took part of the first blog post and bashed it over your head a little later, because I ran out of things to say.

That's also like Rick Perry -- he constantly runs out of things to say. He has approximately three things he can talk about.

1. Treasures troves of energy.

2. Block grants.

3. The 10th Amendment.

But if given a chance to list all three, he'll only make it as far as block grants. It's a tired joke -- the whole listing thing -- but that's sort of what Perry's campaign has become -- an endless chance to show everyone why he didn't win.

It's actually sort of useful for observers.

Fittingly, perhaps, he's leaving little doubt about what happened. He's slowly exhausting all the excuses his supporters have made for him -- that his back was bad, that he had bad advisers, that he had a bad launch etc.,

But just like in the case of Tim Pawlenty, he didn't fail because of a string of tactical errors. He failed because he was a bad candidate in a cycle dominated by debates.

He can keep running until all the primaries and caucuses have come and gone, but it will still be just to stand still (and again, not in a cool, Joshua Tree song kind of way).