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Opinion: I Was So Wrong About Rick Perry

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Campaign Event For Texas Governor Rick Perry

I was wrong.

Back in October, when Rick Perry was at or near rock-bottom, I predicted he'd mount a comeback and be the Republican nominee for president.

I made this prediction for two reasons.

One, on a gut level he seemed exactly the sort of candidate that wins Republican primaries. Able to raise a lot of money, successful in previous campaigns, conservative but moderate on enough issues to head to the middle in the general election.

Two, in 2008 I had made the far-out prediction that John McCain would win the primary. I made that prediction before the campaign began and never wavered from it, even when McCain was in single digits and spending his own money on the campaign. My "blink" said it was McCain, everyone said I was nuts, and when I was right I reveled in the accolades of my friends calling me a genius. Still intoxicated from being so right, I figured I'd try a longshot prediction again and I was wrong. Mea culpa.

Everyone will have Rick Perry campaign post-mortems but Stephen Green's sums up my thoughts:

But I think Perry’s biggest problem was he never articulated a vision as President. It was, as I’ve remarked before, as though he were running for Governor of America. That also showed up in a looseness, an unseriousness, on the stump, better suited to a glad-handing local pol than the next President of the United States. The last straw had to have been a recent poll showing him running third behind Romney and Gingrich in Texas. When you’re the third-favorite son? Your campaign is over.

Running for president is deeper than running for governor and it seemed like his campaign never understood that. I knew my prediction wouldn't come to pass when Politico ran a story noting:

"In a blistering indictment, sources close to the operation describe a new team that was stunned to arrive in October and find a campaign that wasn’t executing the most rudimentary elements of a modern presidential campaign: no polling or focus groups, no opposition research book on their own candidate to prepare for attacks and debate prep sessions that were barely worth the name."

Every season people want to run a "different" kind of campaign but some things have to remain the same to win. Imagining the nomination for president is something easy to achieve is a sure loser every time.

With Rick Perry out, the Republican race for president takes a mildly interesting turn. Conventional wisdom has said Mitt Romney would be the nominee for some time and he likely will be. Rick Perry's exit, and endorsement of Newt Gingrich, might translate to Gingrich winning the South Carolina primary. If this happens it will add some momentary excitement to what currently seems like a finished race.

If Rick Santorum is out before Florida and it becomes a two-man race between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, perhaps Republican voters will choose the last Not-Romney left standing. Or perhaps they'll decide that Not-Romney isn't as good as Romney and they'll pick the guy who has been there all along.