Opinion: 2012 campaign: Rick Perry, a Fred Thompson redux?
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We all may remember (or, more likely, most of us don’t) Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee who polled so well as a non-candidate that he belatedly jumped into the 2007-08 GOP primary race. Thompson’s campaign quickly stalled, thanks in no small part to a general perception of apathy on the candidate’s part.
Comes now Rick Perry, the Texas governor who had seemed genuinely uninterested in running for president before Republicans still unsold on any of their candidates’ electability went looking for their conservative savior. As with Perry, little of substance was known of Thompson, and neither underwent the kind of pre-campaign scrutiny devoted to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John McCain. (And, as I’ve written before, the media limelight should help expose Perry’s indifference to a potentially profound injustice in Cameron Todd Willingham’s execution). Both Thompson and Perry boosted their poll numbers by flirting with their party’s base before making their plans clear; Perry now sits within error-margin distance of front-runner Mitt Romney.
Sure, the comparisons are largely superficial. Perry certainly seems not to share Thompson’s dispassion (see the photo above). Plus, Thompson lacked the line on his resume about governing a state known for weathering the Great Recession relatively well, while Perry brags about it unceasingly, even though the government he oversees competes with California’s dysfunction. Thompson, previously an actor, evoked comparisons to Reagan; Perry, the popular, conservative governor of Texas -- well, you know.
Perhaps a more timely cautionary tale for Perry is Newt Gingrich, who already fills the GOP’s spot for a marginally engaged candidate.
Richard Carson / Reuters
-- Paul Thornton