Setting the record straight on Rick Perry

Over at American Review, I’ve just put a piece by Nicole Hemmer, a US Studies Centre post-doctoral fellow from Indiana who’s in Australia writing a book on conservative American media. Her AR piece is about the recent Rush Limbaugh controversy, and how it’s ended up being much more harmful to Republican presidential candidates than to Limbaugh himself. Check it out!

It’s an excellent post and well worth your attention, but it also contains this aside, which is worth highlighting:

Even for the most conservative candidates, it’s a hard line to toe. Governor Rick Perry, with his Texas swagger, anti-Washington pique, and everyman folksiness, seemed ready to run the table with Tea Party supporters until he made a critical mistake in one debate. No, not forgetting which government department he had sworn to cut — by then, Perry had been off the lead for weeks. It was in a late September debate when, still topping the national polls, Perry was asked about his support of the DREAM Act, which allows children of undocumented workers to attend state colleges at in-state rates.

In his response, Perry blasted opponents of the act as heartless. Just one problem: conservatives comprised the core of DREAM Act opposition. The backlash was instantaneous. Limbaugh pounced, and his denunciation of Perry echoed across the conserva-sphere. Rick Perry never again led in national polls.

In months and years to come, it’s going to be tempting to believe that Perry’s flame out came about thanks to a dramatic lapse of memory on national television. This wasn’t actually the case, however. Perry had been flailing about for weeks, and his temporary amnesia just confirmed what had been apparent for quite a while: he had neither the support nor the political chops to make it on the national stage.