Rich Lowry: Can Perry maintain his appeal in the long term?

BY RICH LOWRY Published: September 20, 2011
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But to become president of the United States, he'll have to reach persuadables who don't value outrageousness for its own sake. If he's never willing to back down, he'll have to go — should he win the nomination — all the way to November 2012 defending the notion that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is possibly guilty of treason.

Some weak moments

On Social Security, he's managed to take what turns out to be his thoroughly conventional Republican view that the program should stay the same for seniors and near-retirees while it's reformed for younger people and make it radioactive through his choice of words and his theoretical musings. His campaign so far has no policy except generalized statements celebrating Texas and condemning the federal government.

Tellingly, his weakest moments in the debates have come when he's been attacked from the right and can't fight back with brassy, crowd-pleasing one-liners. He's made uncomfortable by his streak of pragmatism as Texas governor. For all his self-portrayal as an anti-government purist, he's adept at marshaling and using power. When he says he's pro-business, he's not kidding. Republicans will have to quickly drop the phrase “crony capitalism” from their vocabulary if he's the nominee.

In this year of populist discontent, the blunt outsider Rick Perry has a natural call on the Republican heart. The question is whether he can maintain enough appeal over time to the Republican mind, which will eventually calculate the odds of a prospective nominee vanquishing the incumbent. Whether Perry makes it or not, he'll never be dull. If success were solely a matter of animal spirits, he'd be a lead-pipe cinch.

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