November 2, 2011
By Sheldon Alberts
WASHINGTON – When Rick Perry entered the Republican presidential race in August, the Texas governor was asked how he was any different from the last big gun to come blazing out of the Lone Star State, George W. Bush.
“I went to Texas A&M,” sniffed Perry. “He went to Yale.”
The implication was clear: Bush was a silver-spooned pretender with a rich daddy and a fancy East Coast pedigree. Perry was the real deal Texan, a country boy raised in the hardscrabble wilds north of Abilene, where rattlesnakes and tumbleweeds outnumber people.
At first, no one questioned Perry’s grit. He strode onto the GOP campaign stage like Bush on steroids. There was more swagger in his walk, more twang in his accent and more barrel in his chest.
So it’s no small wonder that, a mere two months later, Republicans are puzzling over how the toughest hombre in the GOP field became the race’s 98-pound weakling....
Cal Jillson, one of the wisest political analysts in Texas, puts Perry’s collapse down to personal hubris, lack of preparation and a tenuous grasp of issues beyond his state.
“Very few people fully appreciated the extent to which he had become fat and lazy in 10 years as governor of Texas,” says Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
“Perry is very good at bumper sticker politics, but was unable to articulate plausible positions on issues that he was not familiar with as governor.”
It’s not just that Perry has struggled with substance – fumbling questions on foreign policy, evolution and immigration – it’s how he has handled adversity that has conservatives second guessing their early support for him.
Witness the complaint from Perry and his wife, Anita, that he was being “brutalized” in debates because he is an evangelical Christian.
“It’s a little more grousing than you would expect from the Marlboro Man,” says Jillson.
“I call this the Texas cheerleader’s lament: ‘They hate me because I am beautiful, not because I am stupid, rude or arrogant.’”