I’ve been convinced for some weeks that Barack Obama was very likely to find himself facing Rick Perry in November 2012. Against what must be the weakest field of Presidential candidates a major party has ever assembled, Perry has name recognition, fund-raising capacity, and good relations with all three wings of today’s GOP: the plutocrats, the Teahadis, and the theocrats.

My model of the process was that Perry would replace Bachmann as the non-Romney candidate, and then roll over Romney. Unlike a situation where Romney was head-to-head with Bachmann and the grown-ups might think about intervening, I don’t see the Republican establishment – what’s left of it – getting freaked out by a Perry candidacy, as weak as it might prove to be in November.

(Apparently Perry is seriously stupid, but that’s no bar to his being nominated; nor is the innocent man whose death warrant he signed and posthumously called “a monster,” or the subsequent cover-up of the blunder; nor his bizarre claim that Texas might secede if Democrats kept winning elections.)

Perry’s co-sponsorship with the American Family Association of the “Response” revival meeting this Saturday was meant to burnish his theocratic credentials and to mobilize the faithful against the Kenyan Muslim communist. His formal entry into the race would have followed.

But right now there are only 8,000 people scheduled to show up, which is going to make a 71,000-seat stadium look pretty damned empty. From the perspective of Perry’s candidacy, that’s both a bad thing and a bad sign. Correspondingly, it’s good news for Michelle Bachmann and Mitt Romney.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.