I don't have as much of a feel for Texas Governor Rick Perry's place along the political spectrum as I do for, say, Michelle Bachmann - but from his early positioning he does seem to be going after the same general area of the GOP tent. The buzz around his candidacy makes me believe that he's more than a dark horse, and the history of the kind of candidate that the Republican party has gotten excited about in the past indicates that he might just be able to shoot on past Bachmann and Romney.
He's certainly got the image down better than the other two contenders. The GOP loves candidates from the South and Western areas of the country - especially Texas. They also are drawn to shoot from the hip-seeming types, and he's got that going for him as well. When you put him against the other two, he's also just got more of that X Factor. Even the new and improved Romney 3.0 still seems manufactured and just too darn perfect to be real, and Bachmann doesn't exude anything near to Perry's level of easy going charm.
Watching him speak reminds me a lot of what George W. Bush could have been like if he had been a bit more animated, and a lot more eloquent.
This doesn't help with a centrist like myself, but I think it will with conservatives, conservative independents and base GOP voters.
Reading through some of the profiles of him that have been cropping up (especially this one, from a reporter who's been following him for years in Texas), you get a picture of the country's longest serving governor that he really is a bit like a more evolved George W. Bush-type political animal. He's apparently very tight-lipped (or downright hostile) with the media, has a populist manner, has the same sort of swagger, he's made the executive branch in Texas more powerful, he's big on sports (though he's an "Aggie" - A&M alum, not a Yalie), he seems to be flush with luck, and is consistently underestimated by opponents he has crushed on his way up the political ladder.
And while it may irk movement social conservatives, who he agrees with on every issue otherwise that I can see, his belief in state's rights supersedes his view that gay marriage should not be allowed. That position will cede some of the GOP base to Bachmann, but it will pull in libertarianesque types, and I think he has more of a full package that will make him appear as the stronger overall candidate. I'd be surprised, for example, if his polling numbers, once the public gets to know him better, don't start out at least several points above her's.
I don't have a very good record of predicting how partisan primaries go, so maybe I'm wrong that he'll shoot up into the contenders list, and give Romney a run for his money. But I'm positive that his brand of conservatism isn't what the country is looking for right now. Among other right wing stances, he supports Paul Ryan's budget plan and the cut, cap and balance plan farce. Put those together with truly right wing social conservatism, and a few wingnutty statements... I don't see how he does anything but drive the lion's share of the swing vote Obama's way and lead to another electoral college sweep in the neighborhood of the 2008 election.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.