On Friday, Texas Governor and Repub presidential hopeful Rick Perry assured a New Hampshire Town Hall Meeting that he--and he ALONE--was best positioned to challenge Barack Obama in a general election. Even more important to this particular audience was Perry's claim to be the most genuine and conservative--genuine conservative?--of the Repub candidates. This speech was only the most recent in a long series of speeches that Perry and the other GOP presidential contenders have made over the last few weeks. In each speech, each candidate--from Perry to Romney to Bachmann--has jockeyed for the title of most conservative. "Contests of Conservatism" have been waged, with each candidate fighting for that ever coveted title.
In the speech, Perry continued a line of association that was started by his campaign: trying to highlight similarities between Romney and Obama. As Perry said, "We need a nominee for the Republican Party who is a clear contrast with Barack Obama." This strategy is potentially both beneficial and wise. If the Perry camp can paint Romney as a left of center candidate who desires to increase government and the GOP base (i.e., the hardliner camp) accepts the painting as provided by Perry, then Perry could defeat Romney in some of the "important" states. Perry's strategy to equate Romney with Obama could serve him well going forward. Romney has been encountering many of the same challenges as he did in 2008: he is having some difficulty with appearing genuinely conservative. As Governor of Massachusetts, he pursued a less-than-conservative agenda, implementing policies that conservatives have a habit of criticizing. Perry knows this and is maximizing his political return on it.
Interestingly, according to Yahoo, Perry's message has not been well received in New Hampshire, especially among that state's more moderate Republicans. Suffolk University published results from a recent poll that "put Perry's support at 8 percent against Romney's 41 percent." Not only is New Hampshire not responding to Perry's message, but NH is also showing that Romney offers the GOP something that the other candidates do not. What that something is probably differs from voter to voter, but the poll results are telling ... and staggering. Romney's pronounced lead over Perry indicates the GOP in NH is unwilling to afford any title or victory to Perry, even as he continues to jockey for the title.
During and after the speech, "a pair of Romney supporters handed out a book titled 'Rick Perry's Plan to Get America Working Again.'" Perry was featured on the cover waving a gun and most of the pages of the book were blank. I'm glad to see that humor--specifically, politically calculated humor--has not been lost. These little anecdotes make campaigns, and blogging about campaigns, enjoyable. Kudos to those Romney supporters. An "A" for humor. A job well done.