As I wrote on Twitter, I never get what I want.
From Legal Insurrection, Governor Rick Perry has ridden off into the sunset. The race is down to Romney and Gingrich (1), now.
While I’m disappointed, I can’t say I’m surprised; after starting with tremendous momentum, Perry blew it all in some terrible initial debate performances. And though he did much better in later debates, one only gets one chance to make a first impression, and he couldn’t overcome his. (In spite of having a tremendous video shop. Really, Newt or Mitt should hire these guys.) But this election is not only practical — fix the economy, stupid! — but ideological, a stark choice between American conservatism/classical liberalism and progressive statism. And Perry just couldn’t articulate the conservative case.
And while I’m not surprised, I can say I’m disappointed. Perry had far and away the best overall record of anyone running as well as the right governing philosophy. I’m still convinced that he’d make a great president, even if he isn’t a champion debater.
While 98% of the blame must rest with Governor Perry in this case, the debate process and the ridiculously outsized influence of two or three small states play are broken. The debates are too crowded, reducing the candidates to seeking soundbites and reciting slogans. (Newt being sometimes an exception.) And why in Heaven’s name they let liberal MSM figures moderate debates for conservative candidates, I’ll never know. The questions are designed to make the candidates look bad and they’re almost never on crucial issues (Really, how many times did Fast & Furious or the European debt crisis come up? *crickets*). The AEI debate was the only good one; coincidentally, that was moderated by conservatives.
And the influence of Iowa and New Hampshire? Gee, people in later states once again get to enjoy a meaningless choice on their primary ballot based on the results in a couple of states with electorates smaller than some congressional districts. The primary system is desperately in need of reform, and I suggest the RNC look carefully at alternatives, such as Jim Geraghty’s suggestion.
I’m told reliably that Governor Perry will head up a 10th Amendment project for Speaker Gingrich to rally Governors and state legislators toward a plan of devolving power from Washington. This project will include helping shape the Republican platform for the general election, something small government conservatives have been concerned about.
Hopefully this will draw Newt more strongly to the federalist, limited-government side of the Force.
As it is, I can’t get excited about either Romney or Gingrich, each for different reasons. I’ll of course vote for whichever wins the nomination, because getting rid of Obama is the overriding priority. But, from now through November, I may concentrate my efforts on getting as conservative a congress as possible elected, to drag the new president in the Right direction. Sign me up for Operation Counterweight.
(1) Sorry, sweater-vest fans, I just don’t see Santorum going anywhere.
UPDATE: Here’s Governor Perry’s withdrawal speech. Very nice; he’s clearly a classy guy, in the most genuine sense. I wish more people had seen this part of him early on.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)