Perry and Romney Showdown: I’d put money on the Texan

It’s official! Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are the front-runners in the battle for the GOP presidential nomination.

Before we go any further, let us consider the historical value of poll numbers at this point in time. This time last election cycle Rudy Giuliani held a commanding lead with 38 percent support among Republican primary voters according to a CBS news poll. Sen. John McCain trailed in fourth behind Romney and Fred Thompson. Mike Huckabee, who proceeded to win the Iowa caucus, take seven other states and capture 20 percent of the vote, wasn’t even on the radar as a possible front-runner.

RealClearPolitics has an excellent chart of their average poll numbers for the 2008 GOP presidential candidates from Feb. 2007 to March 2008. I recommend you take a look, just to get an idea of how wildly those poll number can change in a matter of weeks.

Now that I’ve pointed out how useless polls at this point are, I’m going to proceed to use the most recent round of results as a framework to consider the race. Because that’s just how it’s done. Everyone agrees that polls aren’t very predictive but we still like to report and analyze them to death.

So far, Romney hasn’t targeted any of the other candidates with any real focus. Romney did comment that he was the only candidate with both business and government experience while campaigning in New Hampshire earlier this month. Perry’s response? To blow a kiss and say, “Give him my love.”

A Politico article published yesterday about a potential personal rivalry between the two candidates has generated a lot of talk. The first opportunity to see these two go head-to-head will be on Sept. 7 at the debate sponsored by the Reagan Library, NBC News and Politico.

Romney and Perry both have their weak points – but Perry has the momentum and some very appealing characteristics that could pull support from Romney and attract more Tea Party supporters.

Romney has history on his side. As Adam Yoshida over at the American Thinker points out, the Republican party rarely nominates a candidate who hasn’t run before. And it’s usually a special case – Bush Jr. had the recognition from his father; Eisenhower was a war hero. I see Romney’s previous run as one of the few positives that distinguish him from Perry. Granted, there’s a downside in the ready made “flip-flop” fodder available to his opponents but I think, overall, the fact that he’s already established on the national stage will benefit him.

Because I’m cool like that, I’ve made a Venn diagram of Romney v. Perry strengths and weaknesses… Click for a larger image.

When I say I’d put money on the Texan, I mean that there’s a serious possibility Perry could win the nomination unless the Republican primary voters realize how badly a national campaign could go for him. I think he will do really well in the debate against the other candidates and garner significant Tea Party support, but his record on taxes and federal assistance won’t withstand close scrutiny. He might have signed Grover Norquist’s no new tax pledge, but while in the Texas House he voted to raise taxes many times. He’s become very vocal about the 10th amendment lately, but he’s accepted federal money for all sorts of items – including some healthcare related funds which other Republican governors refused.

I’m thinking he’ll play the same role as Huckabee did in pushing Romney farther right in 2008. He ran in Massachusetts on a much less socially conservative platform but cast himself as far more conservative in the national election – which made him seem faker than ever. Also, I feel bad about bringing this up but it will be an issue – either because the media or an opponent or both will bring it up: Romney is Mormon. A Pew poll on voter attitudes published earlier this year showed that 25 percent of those surveyed would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate. The Obama campaign may even use Romney’s religion to portray him as “weird.”

Hopefully this won’t be a huge issue. Any positive or negative feelings/thoughts/opinions about Mormonism aside, a candidate’s religion shouldn’t be a big deal. Unless they’re a Scientologist. In a GOP primary? Religion is a pretty big deal. So that’s a potential Romney weakness that could be exploited.

One of Perry’s big advantages that will probably turn out to be a mirage? The Texas miracle myth. Yes, yes, I know it’s Paul Krugman. I think he got all his information from the article in the Fiscal Times detailing the fallacy of the Texas economic boom

Now that we’ve taken a close-ish look at the anointed front-runners, one question:

What happened to Michelle Bachmann? She opened her mouth again, but this time it was a joke, people.

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