Perry Agonistes

It’s been a really tough election cycle for Rick Perry. He positioned himself for a presidential run doing what you’d expect to be the Right things. He lined up enough money backing to choke a thousand horses. Sensing the zeitgeist, and perhaps worrying about his failed 2008 effort to become the southern conservative validator for the baby-killing cross-dresser Rudy Giuliani, he did just about everything imaginable to make himself a Tea Party favorite, up to and including repudiations of the entire New Deal and flirtations with nullification and secession. He obtained the blessing of the Christian Right at a sacerdotal event in his home state. To high hosannas, he announced his candidacy in the ultimate right-wing fever swamp of South Carolina, within earshot of conservative uber-commisar Jim DeMint, and before an adoring audience gathered by the epicenter of the wingnutosphere, RedState. In all his early candidate events, he strutted and roared and in general did the full Mussolini (or if it’s offensive to compare him to the original Fascist, let’s say the full Chavez or the full Peron; you get the stylistic idea).

But Perry failed to understand that the Tex-Mex pieties of Lone Star politics made him deeply vulnerable on the immigration issue, and after that crucial stumble he mumbled and paused in debates, and the wheels promptly came off. After a brief flyer with the doomed Gingrich campaign, he returned to Texas a lot worse for wear.

And now his Lieutenant Governor and longtime political ally David Dewhurst is running for the Senate, and he could be in serious trouble in the May 29 Republican primary. Dewhurst is still leading wingnut heartthrob Ted Cruz in the polls, but despite a massive financial advantage, it looks like he may not get over the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, and if so, the heat of a fiery purge could soon consume his candidacy.

Cruz is being backed by most representatives of the national “movement conservative” hordes Perry came so close to leading in his own campaign: the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservative Fund, the doom-sniffing opportunist Sarah Palin, and yes, RedState’s Erick Erickson. So Rick’s now appearing in Dewhurst’s ads. If his protege goes down the tubes, Perry’s national political standing could wind up where it was before he did all that pandering to the Right.

Gotta say, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.