Rick Perry Exits

Polling data can only take you so far in evaluating the silly season of the nominating processes. Breathless media coverage aside, most voters aren’t paying attention yet. Yet we can extract some themes from the polls. Mainly, so far, Republican voters seem to be saying that they are fed up with… Republican politicians. A simple presentation of CNN’s most recent national poll demonstrates the pattern:

  • People who have never won an election (Trump, Fiorina, Carson) – 54%
  • People who have won an election – 39%
  • Someone else/no one/no opinion – 7%

Of course, we’re nowhere near votes being cast, and it would be unprecedented if voters or caucus-goers actually gave the non-politicians over half of the vote. But the message so far is clear: Republican voters are fed up with their politicians. So much so that its most aggressively federalist governor couldn’t gain any traction this time around.

If you care about policy and substance, of all 17 Republican contenders in the 2016 campaign, Rick Perry had been the most impressive. He gave a very bold, important speech on race and the Republican Party, in which he castigated Republicans for ignoring the black vote:

Too often, we Republicans – myself included – have emphasized our message on the Tenth Amendment but not our message on the Fourteenth – an Amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.

For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote because we found that we could win elections without it. But when we gave up on trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln. As the party of equal opportunity for all.

He gave a very strong speech on Wall Street reform, calling for increased capital requirements for large banks and an additional chapter in the bankruptcy code to handle bankruptcies without bailouts.

And perhaps most notably, considering the Republican zeitgeist, Perry was the first candidate to slam Donald Trump.

The White House has been occupied by giants. But from time to time it is sought by the small-minded – divisive figures propelled by anger, and appealing to the worst instincts in the human condition.

In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders: repairers of the breach and sowers of discord.

The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises. He is without substance when one scratches below the surface.

He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.

Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.

He came back to the theme in his concession speech:

We need to get back to the central constitutional principle that, in America it is the content of your character that matters, not the color of your skin – that it doesn’t matter where you come from, but where you are going. In an America blind to color, that champions the individual, that recognizes merit, there is no room for debate that denigrates certain people based on their heritage or origin.

We can secure the border and reform our immigration system without inflammatory rhetoric, without base appeals that divide us based on race, culture and creed.

Let me be crystal clear: for those of us in Christ, our citizenship is first and foremost in God’s kingdom, our brothers and sisters are those made in the image of God, and our obligation – after loving God with all our heart, mind and soul – is to love our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of where they come from.

Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant, it betrays the example of Christ. We can enforce our laws and our borders, and we can love all who live within our borders, without betraying our values.

It is time to elevate our debate from divisive name-calling, from soundbites without solutions, and start discussing how we will make the country better for all if a conservative is elected president.

Earlier this year, I argued that Perry was the sleeper in the Republican race. I touted his strong campaign organization, his record, and his recovered back as reasons for optimism. Some of this played out: Perry really did look like a better candidate this time around. But he was not particularly strong in the “kids’ table debate,” which was critical, where he was outshined (clearly) by Carly Fiorina.

Perry seemed to make a conscious effort to play against type this time around; instead of swaggering, he played the role of elder statesman and man of substance. And it might have worked, in a smaller field. Instead, Perry could not gain any traction. Angrier politicians Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee** seemed to fit the mood of the Republican base better than sober, glasses-wearing Rick Perry, and so much of the base is turning to non-politicians. Meanwhile, the “establishment” seems more interested in Jeb Bush and John Kasich.

If it turns out that Ben Carson or Donald Trump wins the nomination, then it will be clear that something has changed, and these early polls have captured the mood of the electorate. If, however, it turns out that Jeb Bush or John Kasich or whoever else wins the nod, it will be time to ask why the party accepts a process that weeds out good options because implausible ones suck up all of the oxygen while no one is actually paying attention.

**It is interesting that Huckabee can be described as “angry” these days, considering how affable he was in 2007. But it does seem that he has changed his presentation style, dramatically.

Cover photo by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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59 thoughts on “Rick Perry Exits

  1. I think the problem for Perry was that the role he chose to play – the conservative Christian humanist in glasses – was too much against type to be effective, at least coming from him. It may have corrected the image left over from 2012, of far right doofus, but it detached him from the Tea Party or its remnant, which prefers a much more combatively adversarial style – of the sort currently represented best by Trump, of course.

    If Perry was going to try to play the role of compassionate conservative reaching out to the better angels and excluded groups and so on, he still would have had to strike at least a balance, especially at this early point in the process, find something for the five-minute hate portion of the program that was outside the party or movement such as it is (i.e., for better or worse including Trump). Maybe he meant to address that kind of sentiment, but I don’t think a candidate at this point can sustain multiple messages – it’s hard enough to do even in the general election.

    When he decided to go after Trump, around the time of the McCain remarks, I believe, he must have been counting on the bubble popping and of being in a position to take credit for it. Maybe he overestimated the self-respect and loyalty of the party or its most excited supporters at this point in the process. I wonder if the lesson that will be that the content of his appeal rather than the timing or the person trying to make it was the problem.

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    • Also, my suspicion is that the messenger will get the blame, for what it’s worth, rather than the message. Which isn’t to say that Perry’s message will (eventually) carry the day, but I think that its place in this Republican cycle is probably entirely separate from Perry’s fate.

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    • The thing that always gets me about Perry is that, while he was undeniably successful in Texas elections, this gives almost no insight into his ability to win anywhere else. He won in Texas despite being unpopular even among his own party for much of his tenure as governor, and did so largely because he had a political machine in place and the Democrats are unpopular at historical levels here. He just had to win his own party’s primaries, and unlike what you would expect for a popular governor in a party that cannot lose a general election, he received serious primary challenges. This was particularly true in his last gubernatorial election, when anti-Perryism was rampant, and it’s likely he won that primary as a result of his main opponent’s incompetence, not because of anything about Perry (except the money and machine). The idea that he would do better on a national scale seemed preposterous to me.

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      • I agree. Perry was the kind of candidate who understood his specific market very well, but could not translate those skills to a national stage. I feel Walker is in a similar situation, as what made him successful in his state may be what hurts him elsewhere. I will just have to wait and see, but Walker seems to be floundering as he tries to figure out what a national Republican candidate is supposed to say and believe.

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    • When he decided to go after Trump, around the time of the McCain remarks, I believe, he must have been counting on the bubble popping and of being in a position to take credit for it.

      The conventional wisdom at the time was that going after a veteran would place Trump beyond the pale. This conventional wisdom seemed very weird, since one need hardly be a politics nerd to note that Republicans are perfectly happy to go after veterans. Have we forgotten swift boating and Max Cleland? By going after McCain, Trump was treating him as if he were a Democrat. The whole point about Trump supporters is that is how they feel about the Republican establishment.

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      • Richard Hershberger: The whole point about Trump supporters is that is how they feel about the Republican establishment.

        I think it’s how they feel about virtually the entire political class and much of American popular culture at this time. It’s not that they do not recognize or wouldn’t be willing to recognize the service and sacrifice of a McCain or Cleland, but, as Trump clumsily but effectively enough emphasized, they want a different kind of hero, the hero who represents a positive aspiration, who is an exemplar to the highest degree, a champion of principled, unhesitating, unapologetic, and successful action, not the one who, it seems, is acceptable to left-liberal opinion in some part because the very extremity of his suffering or injury represents a punishment for American sins, and whose politics and persona, quite famously in Kerry’s case, represent shame and defeatism, or being a “loser.” For them it’s as though the establishment and media want to see America as the country that blew itself up, experienced deprivation and torture, threw its medals away, gave into its enemies and adopted the rhetoric of cowards.

        There might be everything in the world wrong with that view, but in year 7 going on 8 of the Obama Correction or “leading from behind,” etc., a need for it, is apparently felt quite strongly. You don’t need to tell me that the Obama-Biden administration had its moments complicating the simplified picture. I wonder if some of the wishfulness for a Biden run is a recollection of his ability to speak in a very masculine way about American resurgence: “Bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive!” and all that. (The psychosexual factor may have something to do with why Hillary can’t better exploit her gender identity: She is, if you will, objectively effeminate, and working from the front-runner position makes her seem more passive and reticent: She didn’t get effective in ’08 until she discovered, too late, that she had to fight.)

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            • If you in the cult of BSDI, then yeah. Other than that they would go for a hawkish R who wants to deport and will force Iran, Syria, ISIS, Russia and everybody else to do what he wants.

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                • ISIS isn’t a major threat to us. They could, maybe possibly, develop into something in many years and even then they aren’t likely to ever be a threat to us. They threaten the stability of some countries that aren’t a threat to us and they are a horrible set of MFr’s, But they aren’t magic nor are they uniquely powerful.

                  Personally i pay less attention to quip and speeches then to behavior. O doesn’t have a good answer for ISIS but nobody does. Invading the area is a terrible idea. We don’t’ have good proxies there. Some of the proxies that are available are royal bastards like Assad. Some problems don’t have any good solution. You care about O calling them the JV team….like it or not, that is a triviality.

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                  • ISIS isn’t a major threat to us directly, to be sure, but the instability they represent, and create, in the region is very much one, as is the fact that people from North America and Europe seem to be going over to fight in the Syrian civil war with ISIS and other militant groups to get training and experience (in explosives, e.g.) that they can bring back home with them. It’s basically a live-fire training ground for a lot of would-be terrorists.

                    ISIS may be the best organized and equipped of the militant Islamic anti-Assad groups (though they’re now just anti-just about everything), but they’re not the only one, and if they were to disappear tomorrow, there are two or three who’d readily take their place, and probably wreak similar amounts of havoc in Syria, if not in Iraq as well. The Syrian civil war is going to cause problems all over the world for some time to come, regardless of what happens to ISIS specifically.

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                    • The “live fire training ground” problem is really weak. There will always be some war somewhere. By that logic any conflict anywhere can always be a training ground. It doesn’t take a lot of training to be a suicide bomber or hijacker. In any case, “we have to fight them, because they are fighting and could learn how to fight” doesn’t move me.

                      Yeah the instability is a problem but not really a threat to us. The entire ME isn’t our 51st state. I’m not opposed to some low level of intervention but there isn’t much we can do without putting troops on the ground. We can be a player but not the leader.

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                      • No, that logic is much more specific: here’s an Islamist extremist group that basically accepts anyone, trains them a bit (or not at all, it seems these days), gives them a gun and an RPG and sends them into intense fighting. Westerners have been going there in fairly large numbers, and the ones that make it out are likely both radicalized and experienced in the use of a variety of weapons, including, again, explosives.

                        Now, it’s possible that rebels fighting government forces in DRC might let just about any westerner fight with them, but unlikely. However, the chaos of Syria, along with the relatively spread out nature of ISIS, means that just about anyone can pop over to Turkey, cross the border into Syria at one if the ISIS controlled points (with the aid of ISIS supporters in Turkey), and be fighting in a real battle within weeks, if not days.

                        Then, if such a person lives, leaves the way he came, and makes it back to his home country without being arrested, he has the skills to do real harm. It’s pretty unique, at least at this moment, to this conflict.

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                        • From what i’ve read most of the westerners ( well white westerners) that go there are hopeless lost dufuses. It would be the alienated and marginalized types and people from other war torn areas that are actually dangerous. The problem still is just because there is conflict someplace doesn’t mean it is a major threat. People can be trained in many places. Gosh knows Afghanistan and Pakistan are filled with war like people and many petty conflicts so by this logic we should be there forever. Also terrorists aren’t highly trained soldiers like those in western armies.

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                          • I am not advocating going into Syria, I’m simply pointing out what is pretty much accepted wisdom by Western governments: Syria is a unique situation in that the chaos its created, the willingness to accept just about anyone by some of the extremist groups (and some of the other groups as well, including some Kurdish units), and the fact that westerns have been drawn there, makes it dangerous. Westerners can get in and out of Syria easily, are difficult if impossible to track once there, and can spend several months fighting with experienced soldiers, gain a bunch of fighting experience themselves, then walk out the way they came in. This is not a situation most, or even a handful of conflicts produce, though Iraq and Afghanistan did act as training grounds for insurgents, and now we have ISIS and Yemen and so forth, with the major difference here being that Westerners can get in easily.

                            Of course, most of the people who end up fighting for ISIS from Western states are likely to be either recent immigrants (perhaps the children of recent immigrants) or disaffected youth, but I’m not sure how that makes them less potentially dangerous.

                            Syria is a god awful shitty mess like nothing else in the world right now, and it’s a breeding ground for experienced terrorists largely for this reason.

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                              • There is no good policy on Syria. As my talk of protesting the war in Afghanistan in 2001 suggests, I’m pretty fervently anti-war. I’m glad we and others helped the Yazidi escape from the mountain, and I admit watching the battle in Kobani very closely, but I don’t think we could accomplish anything by actively participating in the chaos of Syria. Giving rebels guns is a problem, too, because most of the rebels don’t like us all that much, and while they’d have no problem taking guns from us, they’d have no problem using our guns on us either. Giving support to Assad is morally odious. Diplomacy, with the number of actors and their competing motivations, is impossible, because even if we got the FSA and Assad to agree to a cease fire, a dozen extremist groups would still be fighting because they aren’t in it for diplomatic solutions, they want territory. And then what about Iraq? Do we just let Iran in? That would seem to be the quickest solution, but of course we’re not gonna do that, not even with a warming between our two nations.

                                My solution to Syria, were I President, would be to bang my head on my desk.

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                                    • You are correct on the guns (and training). However, by let Iran in, I mean let them have a real troop presence in Iraq, rather than relying on militias with advisers and logistical support.

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                                    • This is an unfortunate conflation from .

                                      It happens to be true, I think, that Chris is against Obama’s arming of Syrian Rebels in the fight against ISIS. But in responding to Chris’ consideration of Syria policy with reference to that policy, Kolohe conflates administration ISIS policy with a per-se Syria policy. And Chris was considering Syria policy per se.

                                      The Obam administration arms rebels opposed to Assad in Syria in hopes of leading them to fight Isis (whom the rebels also consider enemies), which is a common enemy between the U.S. and Assad. (It’s a long shot, but, hey, it’s a plan!) But in no way is that a policy aimed at resolving or even fundamentally influencing the internal conflict in Syria between Assad and his enemies.

                                      There certainly has always been that contingent, particularly when Clinton was SecState who was in favor of “arming the moderates!” in Syria in an effort to influence the course of the conflict there between Assad and his enemies, per se (rather than just to deal with spillover consequences like Isis). But, to my knowledge, that continent has never won over the administration at large and gotten such a policy into place.

                                      The administration currently seeks to arm and train rebels only in Syria in an effort to fight Isis (and is doing a piss poor job of it), full stop.

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                    • Department heads who’s jobs and funding depend on ISIS being a big threat all agree that ISIS is a big scary huge threat with lots of exclamation marks. Sun rises in the east. Bears crap in the woods. News at eleven.

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                      • Sounds like sour grapes. I find a statement by folks that are in a position to know better than you, me or greg and you cant stand it. Sure ignore ISIS and let obama admin officials keep scrubbing the intel reports that say otherwise.

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                    • Security officials have been hyping threats to us for , well, decades. Occasionally they are correct but since 9/11 every group under the sun is some sort of threat to us. But every bunch maniacs isn’t an existential, or any other, kind of threat to us. Where is their air force or army or navy? At most the threat is always they may have a place to train people to sneak into the country and shoot up a mall. Yeah that would be bad but how how land do you need to train people for that. Do we invade a country and put tens of thousands of troops in because they may be able to send a lone wolf gun man in? They can train lone wolf type terrorists in approximately a gazillion miles of territory from Africa through the mid-east over to pakistan.

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                        • That article doesn’t change anything i said about ISIS not being a serious threat to us. They pose little danger to us. Why was CENTCOM cooking intell if they were? It’s not like this is the first time they have been accused of that ( remember Iraq?) so it is a believable complaint. However where is the danger from ISIS? When are they going to invade us?

                          And again back to the point that there are no good solutions. Nobody has an answer to defeating ISIS while getting Assad out and not invading with our troops and minimizing the influence of Iran. It’s a true cluster w/o any decent solutions.

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                          • And all because we invaded Iraq….

                            Course, Cheney blames Obama … oops, I mean Bush … for, well:

                            in 2008 George W. Bush signed the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement. It included a deadline of 31 December 2011, before which “all the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory”.

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                            • Well, after reading the linky, which outlines two cases of executive policy distorting field-based intell reports, I’ll admit that I prefer an administration “looking for facts” to keep us outa war over “looking for facts” to get us into one.

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                              • They aren’t “looking for facts,” they are telling the intel guys to distort the truth. There is a big difference. Just b/c you give policy makers the truth doesn’t mean that armed conflict will occur. Refusing to face the facts is much more dangerous.

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                                • I prefer an administration which distorts the truth to keep us outa war more than an administration which distorts the truth to get us into one.

                                  Do you like that better?

                                  Edit: That claim is based on a rejection of Cheney’s 1% Doctrine, by the way. Just to clear that up.

                                  Cheney: If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.

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                                  • Frankly I can’t understand why you or anyone for that matter would approve of or support any admin that would distort intel for any political purpose. The difference is what you choose to do with or respond to the truth.

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                                        • Well, that’s why I can’t even respond to your comment: you’re not making any sense. I didn’t say I supported distorting field-based intel reports. I said that if the executive branch is gonna distort intelligence, I’d prefer that it be done to keep us outa war rather than get us into one.

                                          I could also say I’d prefer an Admin that doesn’t distort intelligence to one that does.

                                          Alsotoo, I didn’t read North as saying he approved of monkeying with the monkey business if it serves his favored ends. I read him as saying he didn’t believe the complaints were legitimate. Which is a very reasonable view to take right now, seems to me.

                                          Adding: I noticed that you swapped out the originally posted Daily Beast linky for Business Insider link, which is a good move, in my opinion. The Daily Beast article is turrible. On the other hand, the Business Insider link fails to mention the politicization of intel undertaken during the Bush years. Which sorta makes my response seem like a non sequiter.

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                                          • Yes, that is basically it. I am in no way approving of distorting intelligence, I am simply asserting that the opinions you’re citing are deeply biased and therefore suspect. Anyone with a rational brain in their head knows that ISIS is not even remotely an existential threat to the US. They could, at the very most, sponsor terrorist attacks on the US that could kill some people and destabilize the middle east which could impact energy prices. That’s about it and that’s at the very most. That sure as hell isn’t a reason to throw another couple trillion dollars and thousands of GI’s into the morass of Syria like Darth Cheney and the normal idiot neocon usual suspects are suggesting.

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          • It may seem simple to you and me, but it remains “complicating” for those who insist there is a contradiction, pointing to hypocrisy, in celebrating soldiers and “heroes,” but despising or turning against or even merely criticizing McCain and Cleland and Kerry.

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            • Oh it is completely hypocritical to say we should venerate soldiers then smear poo on those you don’t agree with politically. But i never thought most conservatives truly believe in respecting soldiers. I’ve heard to many who only respect those who they agree with. There are of course plenty who do actually respect military service even in people they disagree with.

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            • I’m just happy that we’ve reached a point in history where every presidential election isn’t about who did what during Vietnam.

              I dread the time when every election will be about who did what during The Various Wars on Terror.

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  2. Jeb! while being interviewed by Stephen Colbert:

    I’m going to say something that’s heretic [sic[, I guess. I don’t think Barack Obama has bad motives

    That is, according to the former governor of Florida, a completely establishment Republican, not a Tea Partier or an extremist, it’s heresy [1] to deny that the current president of the United States isn’t consciously trying to harm it. The guano goes deep.

    1. “Heretical” would also be correct, but even Bushes who speak a foreign language fluently have problems with their native one.

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    • That may have been the worst interview of a politician I’ve ever seen. The entire time I was thinking, “This man has absolutely no desire to be president.” He was barely even trying. It was like watching someone have his teeth cleaned on national television.

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  3. It should be interesting to see where his support transfers once he’s factored out of the polls. I’m assuming we’ll see a minor bump for the establishment candidates. If we don’t that should make an interesting data point.

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  4. What’s the ‘establishment’ ever done for the base?

    I mean think about it as a process: The GOP throws red meat to the base in the form of “America as we know it will be destroyed if [Democratic Candidate/Democratic Policy/Democratic Figure] isn’t stopped or [Republican Candidate/Republican Policy/Republican Figure] doesn’t prevail!”.

    And what’s happened? The ACA is the law of the land, abortion is still legal, those darn SCOTUS picks are all closet liberal traitors, and basically there’s been no success.

    So if you’re viewing things apocalyptically, and the ‘establishment’ has absolutely failed to stop all these end of the world scenarios, why would you want to keep voting for them? They obviously don’t take these threats seriously!

    And god, after McCain and Romney — “establishment” picks failed so badly? Bah, what does the establishment know? They lost to a Kenyan Muslim who isn’t even American!

    The GOP base wants a fighter, because it’s been 8 years of the End of the World As We Know It, and the GOP has done…nothing. Accomplished nothing. Pushed back the forces of darkness nowhere. Every “This time we’re gonna do it!” has failed — and been accompanied by a ‘stab in the back’ mythos. Wishy-washy establishment Republicans aren’t willing to go to the mat like [True Conservative X]. They’re making deals, and backing down, etc.

    So why not Trump? He’s got all the image of a fighter, a scrapper. You can’t see Trump “backing down” just because of a few polls — why he’d burn down the whole government to get his way! He’d get stuff done. He’d walk in there like a veritable King, and do what those establishment Washington fat cats won’t — fight the hard fights.

    That’s why Perry went nowhere. They GOP wants someone who will burn down America to save it, and they’ve run out of trust in mainstream GOP politicians — decades of voting for them, and Planned Parenthood is coercing teenagers into late-term abortions so they can sell the fetal tissue to the Socialist Atheist Fascists working out of Democratic HQ.

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    • The GOP base is aching for a true-believer-damn-the-consequences-fighter and I’m completely fine if they nominate themselves one*. I for one wouldn’t mind another 1964 election. It’d be good for the GOP, Good for the Democratic Party and in the long run good for the Republic.

      *That said the GOP elite has no desire to suffer such a candidate and I remain skeptical that the base can get one elected. I’m rooting for em though! *crunch*munch*

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  5. Perry: And I will tell you, it is three kinds of cereal when i get out of this nomination race that are gone out of my house. Cornflakes, Rice Crispies, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see…Okay. Cornflakes, Rice Crispies, and the —”

    Mitt Romneyl: Fruit Loops?

    Perry: Fruit Loops, there you go.

    Moderator: Seriously — is Fruit Loops one you are talking about?

    Perry: No, sir, no, sir. we are talking about the — kinds of cereal in my house — Fruit Loops need to be in chocolate milk. >>

    Moderator: you can’t — you can’t name the third one?

    Perry: The third kind of cereal I would — I would do away with Cornflakes, Rice Crispies, Rice Crispies and, let’s see. I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.

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