Perry’s Bachmann hurdle

Texas Governor Rick Perry has surged to the top of the GOP presidential polls, and his closest competitor for the nomination, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has taken notice.

Perry’s team knows that for Perry to get past Romney, he’ll have to solidify his position as the standard bearer of tea partiers and social conservatives.

Unless Sarah Palin enters the mix — a move that would likely favor Romney and hinder Perry — the Texas governor’s chief rival for the affection of fiscal and social conservatives is Michele Bachmann.

As respected political observer and longtime Perry watcher Cal Jillson notes, job one for Perry is to make Bachmann irrelevant, so that Perry “can go one on one with Mr. Romney.”

So how does Perry remove Bachmann from the equation? By touting a strong jobs record and “making eyebrow-raising comments” on issues ranging from global warming to Federal Reserve practices. Perry’s recent slew of signature statements may befuddle the mainstream media, independents and some establishment Republicans, but, according to Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen, they seem to place Perry “perfectly in line with the GOP base” and have pushed him into the lead in Iowa, the first Republican nominating contest.

With media scrutiny intensifying, Team Romney on high alert and several GOP debates scheduled over the next couple of months, the question for Perry will be: Can he sew up the conservative mantle and dispense with Bachmann before he goes so long on the rhetoric that he becomes too polarizing to win the general election? If Perry is able to narrow the field to him and Romney, and do it in a timely manner, Team Romney could find itself in real trouble, because as Marc Thiessen observes: “Perry is the exciting guy in the cowboy boots who people fall in love with. Romney is … the guy you settle for.”

Perry is certainly engaged in a very dangerous political game that could ultimately alienate independents, particularly in the all-important battleground states of Florida and Ohio. If Perry continues to fire from the hip in a relatively unchecked manner and does not choose his words more wisely, he will provide Romney’s campaign with a treasure trove of greatest hits that could give credence to the claim that Romney is the best candidate for the general election. And while Republicans love a fighter, they know they can’t endure four more years of Obama.

Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are the co-founders of CivicForumPAC and advisors to conservative candidates on Internet outreach, communications and campaign strategy.

  • Anonymous

    I have talked to many Obama voters, some are Dems, some claim to be Independents, all Tea Party people. They are NOT impressed with Perry. They don’t need to “love” their candidate, they need them to win. Bachman and Perrry seem to be in a contest to see who can throw the biggest bomb. Bachman is serious in her bomb throwing – a real true believer. Perry, however, just wants to tell people what he thinks they want to hear. No, I don’t think he is stupid, on the contrary, he is playing the poor Tea Party folks like a fine country fiddle. I see more substance in Gingrich, Santorium, Cain or Huntsman. I prefer Romney but I really don’t want more drama like Obama and Perry and Bachman would provide us our own drama King or Queen.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7H46Z3XYIFPHYYD6MCNY7HLNTY JEFFinOH

     advisors to conservative candidates on Internet outreach—- Well, if I were running I sure wouldn’t wast my time with your advice. It sounds like you already have your Mitt. I really don’t believe that Mitt will win the nom. because of Global w. Mitt care. This is not a conservative platform. And to litterly pass up a Bachmann or a Palin is insanity… It’s a long way to go. We already seen all the dirt the have on Bachmann and Palin, so there shooting blanks at them.

  • http://twitter.com/aemoreira81 Adam Moreira

    I don’t see how Palin hurts Perry at all. Rick Perry has a lot more leadership experience. If anything, Palin would split the vote with Perry.

    The real issue is that social conservatives will fail to see Bachmann’s lack of leadership.

  • Sandy

    Sorry to inform you that Michele Bachmann is already irrelevant.  If you paid attention to the internals of the polls, you would know that Perry has strong support from the Tea Parties, and the independents.  He isn’t alienating anyone.  It goes to show how weak the Bachmann support was to begin with. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Will-Malven/1197420353 Will Malven

      Yep, Sandy, you’re spot on.  Michele Bachmann pretty much became irrelevant the moment Rick Perry made his announcement speech.  Bachmann was sort of the default conservative choice, the only one of those in the Iowa Straw Poll who stood a remote chance of defeating Romney.  Once Perry entered the race, most of her supporters jumped at the chance to support him.