The Rick Perry Reboot

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Rick Perry now only pretending to fire guns in public. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

It was inevitable that Rick Perry would respond to his disastrous autumn, and today we see that it’s underway. The first step, reports the New York Times, is to give him more sleep:

“We had a tired puppy,” said one Republican friend, who talked to Mr. Perry after his three back-to-back debates last month. “He had been pushed really hard.”

Let me interject here with some messaging advice. When you’re trying to craft an image of a strong leader, it’s generally best to avoid comparing your candidate to a puppy. If you’re going to use an animal comparison, go for something powerful, like a lion, wolf, bear, and so on. Small, adorable creatures should be avoided. Also disgusting ones, like insects and rats.

Phase two is to press the attack on Mitt Romney for his shameful past of covering the uninsured:


This seems effective enough, though the hurdle here is not convincing Republicans to distrust Romney but rather to consider Perry as an alternative.

Perhaps the most important step is for Perry to find a way to explain his own shameful act of human compassion — his in-state tuition program for children of illegal immigrants. This is an enormous factor in Perry’s decline. The Texas governor has actually declined more among tea party sympathizers than among more mainstream Republicans. As Theda Skocpol has found in her study of the tea party, opposition to illegal immigration is a unifying principle of the movement.

Here’s Perry’s attempt to frame his no-longer-secret shame:

“We wanted to make taxpayers, not tax wasters,” Mr. Perry said, responding to one of several questions from voters on the topic. “The issue was really driven by economics.”

Not a bad try. He’s trying to present this as a way to crack down on freeloading illegal immigrants — certainly not an attempt to help them. It’s somewhat akin to Romney’s attempt to defend the individual mandate by casting it as a way to keep the shiftless uninsured from freeloading off the rest of us by showing up sick at the hospital.

So there is the Perry plan: sleep, kicking immigrants in the face, and reminding voters of Romneycare.