Rick Perry for Student Body President!

October 17th, 2011 at 1:00 pm | 27 Comments |

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted a piece about Governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign here at FrumForum. This certainly hasn’t been because there’s been a lack of media attention on his campaign and needless to say, not all of this attention has been positive.

His performance in recent GOP presidential debates has been lackluster at best and his poll numbers have dropped dramatically from the heights there were only a month or so ago. Still, it would be a mistake to count him out. As others have pointed out, he still has a great financial fundraising machine, a strong political staff and many Republican voters are not comfortable with the idea of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney becoming the GOP’s standard-bearer in 2012.

But all that is commentary one can find elsewhere. I’d like to point out an anecdote that I think encapsulates both the strength and the weakness of Perry’s campaign. After the recent GOP presidential debate at Dartmouth College, Perry paid a visit to a Dartmouth fraternity house to meet supporters. John McCormack at The Weekly Standard described the visit as follows:

After the debate ended, Perry showed off his skills as a retail politician at a small event with Dartmouth students…During a brief question-and-answer session, Perry asked students to raise their hands if they think Social Security will be around for them when they retire. Two or three hands popped up. “Those guys believe in the Tooth Fairy, as well,” Perry cracked. The students laughed. “Just kidding, brother,” he added with a smile. Perry spent 10 minutes shaking hands after he spoke. He asked students questions about their lives, displaying a near-Clintonesque ability to make each student feel like he or she is the only one in the room. The dull Perry who showed up at Tuesday’s debate was not the same upbeat and good humored Perry who showed up at the Beta house.

In so many ways, this anecdote says a lot about the Rick Perry campaign. On the one hand, one can see the talented retail politician that Rick Perry is and the gregarious good-old-boy image that he portrays. It’s hard to imagine Mitt Romney referring to anyone as “brother” or “bro” in any convincing way, for example. But it also shows Perry’s weakness. National presidential politics isn’t just about being friendly and shaking a lot of hands. It requires a degree of intellectual and public policy seriousness and adroitness that Perry has not been able to show he has, particularly in large public settings.

The problem for Rick Perry is that his campaign has come off like the campaign for a student body or fraternity president – lots of back-slapping and jokes, but not much substance. That’s fine in the right context and I have nothing against wisecracking over beers with amiable company. But that’s not what presidential politics is all about, even if Austin politics can sometimes seem like that. Rick Perry isn’t out of the game yet, but he needs to elevate his game if he’s going to win the GOP presidential nomination. And he doesn’t have time to meet enough people one-on-one to do that.

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27 Comments so far ↓

  • indy

    I don’t know if those are really pictures of Perry or not (seems like they might be) and while I don’t think much of the man, I find the snickering undertone of them in combination with the title to be a bit on the immature side.

  • more5600

    Yes those are pictures of the actual Perry, looks like the dude from Animal House.

    Under-informed, incurious, backslapping, former-cheerleader Gov. of Texas wants to be President… been there, done that.

  • reasonableviews

    We have been wondering if it’s possible for Rick Perry to make a second first impression. http://bit.ly/mTVVnE I think the answer is, “Yes.” It’s still early, he has money, he has a great team, he has great results in Texas, and he has great TV commercials. And, if he’s really that good with people in small forums, he may yet be viable.

    • Rick123

      The question, then, is whether Perry has the *motivation* to become a better candidate. This means intense learning about national issues. He can’t just try to implement Texas politics at the national level. Voters aren’t going to buy that. We have yet to see any evidence that Perry has this motivation. He hasn’t improved at all as a candidate over these last few weeks.

      The same motivational issue was present for Palin after she quit as Governor. She could have spent this time becoming a policy expert, with a vision for this country. But that was hard and she didn’t have the motivation. Instead, she took the easy route and still peddles the same generic wisdom.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    I am with Indy on this, besides, how is this all that different a characterization of GWB? And I don’t mean this all negatively, Bush had a pretty successful first term policy wise (if not result wise) so why would this be good if it comes from a Bush but not so if it comes from Perry. The only downside of this I can see is as more5600 said, “been there, done that”

  • rbottoms

    Why not Neidermeyer for president?

    I think “You’re all worthless and weak” is a great campaign slogan.

    • chephren

      I bet Neidermeyer got better grades than Perry.

    • chephren

      More great campaign rhetoric from Animal House:

      “This situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part. We’re just the guys to do it!!”

  • Graychin

    Don’t laugh too hard. All of the candidates have embarrassing pictures of themselves from their younger days floating around in the Tubes.

    http://cache.boston.com/bonzai-fba/Globe_Photo/2007/06/25/1182777539_1275.jpg

  • Giggles

    Why is Perry hanging around with some frat that wiki says was booted from Dartmouth for racist and sexist acts in the 90s and has recently been revived (don’t mention the unrelated 15k in damage the ‘bros’ also caused)?

  • laingirl

    Yes, I’m sure the young people at that little meet and greet were impressed when he talked about “….one of the reasons we fought the revolutionary war in the 16th century….” I do not think it’s too much to ask that our presidents know a little bit about the country’s history.

    By the way, I understand that Perry has a life-sized painting of the cadet picture in his office. It was a gift from one of his big supporters.

  • xpostfactoid

    Note the bullying impulse – leading with a question positioning him to ridicule those who respond.

  • rbottoms

    It’s the clown car party, does it matter which clown gets out first?

    Romney must be pretty cheesed off that a nobody from a 3rd rate pizza chain is more popular that the premier flip-flopper.

  • JohnMcC

    For what it’s worth, I understand the picture in the high boots and military uniform show the Governor as a member of the Corps of Cadets. Seem that Texas A&M is one of the very few non-military-academy colleges to have a program that results in a student emerging as a Lieutenant. Exactly how this is different from ROTC, I don’t know. But the Aggies take considerable pride in being equivalent to, say, The Citadel or VMI. And the University of Texas doesn’t have any equivalent which makes it more important.

    While I’m on the subject — Aggies constantly struggle for respect in Texas. There is a genre of humor there: Aggie jokes. My favorite: Did you hear that a plane crashed into the A&M Library? Did $50 worth of damage! And one of the books wasn’t even colored yet!

    • Kevin B

      As a former student of Texas A&M, these photos don’t faze me at all. Except for the hair. When did c.t.’s wear their hair so long?

      I even dated a c.t. (cadet trainee) for a little while in the 1980s.

      Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Biherboj8xk

      It’s the opening sequence of a (WWII propaganda) movie filmed on the A&M campus. The soldier running through the hail of bullets is a young Robert Mitchum (“Bob Mitchum” in the credits), and the one in the hospital bed is Noah Beery, Jr., best known to people of a certain age as Jim Rockford’s dad. The movie also featured William Frawley (Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy).

      • Ray_Harwick

        It was certainly the style among rural kids of that day. Perry is two years old than me and my high school senior picture has the same hair style. For country kids, that was long hair because school official in rural schools wouldn’t allow hair over your ears or below the collar so that drape of lock across the forehead was the most rebellious thing we could get under the radar. I was better looking than him back then but I was pretty surprised to learn he was older. It must be the cigs and vodka I put away over the years. He certainly has weathered well, I must say.

  • shediac

    Put a mustache on the photo on the right, looks like a young….

  • Stewardship

    Anyone else thinking, “Niedermeyer?”

  • Churl

    This must mean that Perry is once again perceived by Frum and Chums to be a credible threat to Romney’s nomination. Surprise; I thought Perry was pretty well out of it and Herman Cain was the next obstacle looming on the horizon.

  • sjwilliams12

    Though I agree with the conclusion, “Rick Perry is not fit to be president,” your premise that it’s because “back-slapping and jokes, but not much substance…is not what presidential politics is all about” would appear to fly in the face of recent (2000-2008) history.

    It’s more likely that people don’t want ANOTHER back-slapping, joking candidate with not much substance.

    Too soon!