By Francis Wilkinson
Rick Perry has had an interesting week. He started off openly flirting with "birther" conspiracy theorists. Then he introduced a new flat tax plan and called his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, a "fat cat" -- a curious nomenclature coming from any Republican, let alone one selling a plan to reduce taxes on the wealthy.
As David Frum points out in his column at theweek.com, none of this was intended to impress the sort of people who read tax plans looking for coherence (or even defensible arithmetic), or who regard claims that Obama is an illegal alien as the gaseous emissions of the fever swamp.
Perry is signaling that the campaign is entering a new phase. Despite a paucity of credible opponents, Romney is still nowhere near the coronation that many Democrats, moderates and elite Republicans believe he manifestly deserves -- if only by default. Even after Perry's support collapsed (after Republican voters discovered, as if for the first time, that you don't become governor of Texas by championing electric fences and Arizona-style immigration policies), Romney failed to consolidate the primary vote.
According to the latest Fox News poll, 80 percent of Republican primary voters are still resisting Romney, preferring to park their votes with the implausible likes of Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich until something -- anything? -- better comes along. Perry struck out on his first try. But he's got the means to make another, with political pros expecting a blistering negative ad campaign against Romney to begin any day now.
"Perry has, in short, positioned himself as the most survivable repository of anti-Romney hopes in the GOP," Frum writes. "And there are a lot of Republicans who hold such hopes."
(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)
-0- Oct/27/2011 18:04 GMT