The Not-So Longshot


Dan Scotto

Dan Scotto lives and works in New Jersey. He has a master's degree in history, with a focus on the history of disease and the history of technology.

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61 Responses

  1. Avatar Francis says:

    Interesting post about the dynamics of running for President in a crowded field.

    One simple question though: why should anyone vote for him? (follow on questions: what does he stand for? what will he do on Iran / global warming / taxation / income inequality / immigration ….?) Does anyone care about issues any more, or is it all about appearing folksy?Report

    • Avatar North says:

      We’re talking the GOP primary here, not the general election. Perry et all don’t really need to have answers to your questions in the primary; their answers are all already known. Obama is Bad/I’s imaginary/Cut them/It’s irrelevant or imaginary/stop it.Report

    • Avatar Joe Sal says:

      You know and I know, it ain’t happenin’.

      -cough*HPV mandate*cough-Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I think he was pretty successful at putting that behind him in Texas, and I suspect his newer, smarter advisers would be able to do a better job of not letting people misrepresent that mandate the way it was misrepresented here at the time.

        That said, even Republicans in Texas didn’t like him (and the only reason he won his final term is that the only Republicans who’d run against him were incredibly incompetent), so I can’t imagine he’ll find it easy to get people to like him nationally. Then again, he kept winning elections here without the affection of his own party, so maybe it won’t matter at the national level either.Report

        • Avatar Joe Sal says:

          Your probably correct, but a big theme in the next election will be how Obama is framed with his executive decisions and mandates. Perry having mandate play in his past puts a sizable dent in that angle.Report

  2. Avatar Kim says:

    Walker is an idiot. I certainly haven’t forgotten his gaffes…

    Perry? Well, it’s easy to flub something and have it be held against you forever, like Joe Biden.
    Clinton managed to slide by a lot of issues though, so I suppose if you’re slick enough…

    At least Perry doesn’t have the legal issues of Rubio to deal with…Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds says:

      I have no respect for Walker after he compared fighting unions in his state to confronting ISIS. Anyone who thinks something this stupid needs to be as far from the White House as possible.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Oi. He was an idiot when he let a man calling up saying he was Mr. Koch talk to him. (This after Palin got punked by that Canadian disc jockey — so he should have known better.)

        But you’re right, that is exceptionally asinine.Report

  3. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    I am trying to wrap my head around the idea that “a Romney guy, a Santorum guy, and a McCain guy” constitutes “a pretty wide array of backgrounds.” Sure, I know that you are talking within the context of the Republican primaries, but still, we are talking about three middle aged white guys.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Dole’s campaign was made up of Clinton supporters.
      Compared to that…Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I’m pretty sure that the argument is either “I’m a fiscally savvy guy like Romney, I’m a socially conservative guy (or man/guy of faith) like Santorum, and strong on National Defense like McCain” *OR* “I’m a social conservative like Romney, I’m strong on Foreign Policy like Santorum, and I’m as fiscally savvy as McCain.”

      One of those.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      The key part is not their ‘diversity’ per se, it’s the diversity of their wins in the Republican primary process.Report

    • Avatar Dan Scotto says:

      This is a fair point, and it’s one of those reminders to be careful with language! It’s definitely only a wide variety of backgrounds in the context of the Republican Party’s various constituencies. The “three-legged stool” concept is still relevant, but there are a lot of disagreements between Santorum supporters and Romney supporters, beyond mere rhetorical differences. Perry can bridge those differences, though, if everything goes well.Report

  4. Avatar Mark says:

    All Perry can offer is his so-called “Texas Miracle.” Hard to see that stand up to much scrutiny as others have already begun to pick it apart.

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      The really interesting thing about that article, and the response to it, is what it demonstrates about people’s ability to accept arguments they would reject in any other context. It’s essentially saying “Fracking is so awesome that some activity in West Texas can carry the economy of a state with 20 million people in it, most of which live hundreds and hundreds of miles away…” (which is, alas, probably not true.)Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      The Dallas Fed. predicts slower-growth than the rest of the nation due to the decrease in oil and natural gas prices, too:

      If that’s true, there’s this weird thing here — when Texas thrives, the rest of the US hurts from higher energy costs. When energy costs plummet, boosting economies elsewhere in the US, Texas experiences slower growth.

      Keith Phillips, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said the drop in oil prices to $50 from $80 a barrel will have a negative impact.

      “It’s still positive growth, it’s not just as strong as the nation,” he said of the state, which has an annual Gross Domestic Product of about $1.4 trillion, about the same size as South Korea’s.


      Separately, the state’s comptroller said on Monday that Texas is expected to see a 14.3 percent drop in the revenue it derives from oil production and regulation taxes in its upcoming budget cycle because of falling oil prices.

      So I’m not sure that the Texas miracle is all that it’s cracked up to be.

      Additionally, the Texas miracle has a deep, dark underbelly. See anybody in poverty; women, and immigrants. Texas leads nation in people without health insurance., ranks 3rd in teen births and highest in repeat-births to teen mothers, and it leads in growth of incarceration rates.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        comment rescue, please.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          May I make an alternative suggestion? I see where you’re going — Texas is analogous to a petrorepublic, beset with similar sorts of problems that come with a nation’s over-reliance on petrodollars and an industrial base of almost exclusively extraction.

          That doesn’t sound like a comment rescue to me. It sounds like a guest post. And an awesome one at that. I don’t have time to do it myself, but it sounds like you’ve done the research. Up for it?Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            I’ll think about it; things are kind of busy for me right now.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            You have to separate the oil industry and in-state oil extraction. It’s inaccurate to say that the state’s industrial base is almost exclusively extraction. First, because there are refineries! But really, because it is a diversified economy with more points of health than their neighbor to the east. And a lot of it isn’t in-state extraction at all, but rather corporate headquarters of oil companies based in the state.

            Which is why the state was doing quite well before the fracking boom, when in-state oil production was at the lowest point it had been in 70 years, because they were collecting the proceeds of the oil industry from elsewhere. It also contributes to the state growth hundreds of miles away.

            Or put another way, a significantly bigger problem for the state than wells being capped in West Texas, is that the value of the product of an industry for which it has become an international hub has dropped precipitously. For now, anyway.Report

          • Avatar zic says:


            I just realized you thought I was asking for a ‘comment rescue post,’ when all I wanted was to have my comment fished out of the spam box!

            Phew. Now I don’t need to consider writing about something I know nothing about but wonder a lot.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I believe that the Texas economy was helped greatly by the oil industry at large, and I think he gets little credit for it (not the least of which because he inherited it from his predecessor), but the argument that it comes down to fracking was a pretty terrible one. That works in North Dakota, which is a small state where such a thing makes a huge difference, but not in Texas. I would add that if Texas is surviving this punch in its gut with growth – even with growth lesser than the rest of the country – that’s actually kind of impressive. (Though has little to do with Perry, either way.)Report

        • Avatar zic says:


          A lot of it’s the multiplier effect of the oil industry.

          The bigger problem isn’t a lack of diversity, however; it’s the extreme price fluctuation of the dominant industry. Fracking matters in that, not as a product that TX sells as part of their energy resources, but as one of the prime drivers of the drop in the price of a barrel of oil. That drop in energy prices means a big drop in the amount of money flowing throughout the economy; and that has a multiplier effect, too.Report

  5. I’m thinking of another guy who, when he was running for governor of Texas, seemed intelligent, articulate, and flexible, but when he was running for president talked only in conservative cliches and seemed to have the cranial capacity of a mollusk. What’s up with that?Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    A very plausible case, I wouldn’t have considered Perry that viable, but you have changed my mind.

    The only criticism of this analysis I have is in part 5. Early debates are way too crowded with too little individual air time for any one to generally be a standout; the best you can hope for is to not trip over yourself (the exact stake Perry made, as you say and everyone agrees). I don’t know if it’s enough for him to simply meet or exceed (low) expectations to get him into the top tier. I strongly doubt he’ll have the opportunity (and very much doubt he has the ability) to ‘win’ the debates by a sufficient enough margin to erase his previous performances.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I know this sounds crazy, but I feel like you can’t discount the fact that Perry actually physically resembles Reagan just a little bit (it could be my imagination, but he seems to be playing that resemblance up, with the glasses and hairstyle).

      Amongst a certain set, that unconscious association might help his chances, more than anyone would like to believe it should.Report

    • Avatar Dan Scotto says:

      Interesting point! The crowded debate could cut both ways against Perry–it could insulate him from attacks, but it could also leave him on the outside looking in. I hadn’t considered that piece.Report

  7. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    This was a really good post, but I’m not sure I buy it.

    There’s an incorrect assumption made by those of us who write about politics a lot: that because America is the land of second chances, anything is possible. Any viewing of any of the presidential primaries in my lifetime, however, proves that this is entirely wrong.

    The truth is that while Americans will likely be willing to give presidential candidates a second (or third, or fourth) viewing, the people who run for president are who they are. You can repackage them, rebrand them, and re-market them, of course, but at the end of the day they’ve gotten to where they are in life by being who they are, and they will be who they are — gifts and warts alike — each time they run.

    Perry is no different.

    Perry was the assumed frontrunner in 2012 prior to his actual jumping in the race. The reason that he never picked up any steam was the reason *most* presidential candidates never do: he never really took it seriously enough. Most presidential candidates, when you cut through all of the horserace analysis, are people who’ve gotten where they are in the political machine mostly on charm. Most tell themselves they will become different people when they throw their hat in the ring — more diligent, more informed, more ready at the quick when taken off script — but at the end of the day they are who they are, and most never bother to do the work required. (And to be fair, it’s a f**k-all tonnage of work; most people would fail.)

    When you look at Perry’s 2012 campaign, you have to accept one of two stories. One story is that he was on pain meds that dulled his brilliance. FTR, I am not sold on this line. It’s a little too convenient an excuse, and subsequent interviews over the past couple of years I’ve seen him in suggest that — like most other POTUS candidates — when he’s asked something that makes him have to go off script/talking points, he looks lost. But even supposing the painkiller story is true, you still have a candidate who let himself be put in position after position where he looked dumb, unprepared, or drunk. Or to put it another and perhaps more accurate way, you have a candidate who most likely surrounded himself with yes-men who let him do so, told him he was doing awesome, and went on his merry way.

    The other option, of course, is that he’s just not that great, and that he occasionally shows up to fundraisers drunk.

    Either option makes the thought of him being able to win either the White House or even the party nod dubious at best.Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds says:

      I agree with @tod-kelly . I find the argument made by some pundits that Perry was just having problems with his meds terribly unconvincing. It looked to me like her understood the Texas political system well, but failed to grasp just how different a national campaign was. His little folksy quips and one-liners may have won votes in Texas, but they did not translate into effective points in debates.

      That, and I think there is a real aversion around the country to another bumbling Texan in the White House. Sure, Jeb is a Bush, but he has tried to sell himself as a competent one that lives in Florida.Report

    • Avatar Dan Scotto says:

      I think this is a very plausible read of Perry’s 2011, and why Perry falls in 2015. The reason I am fairly bullish on Perry, though, is that we do have that uncertainty surrounding what actually caused the 2011 problems. I don’t think Perry has to be *brilliant,* per se, to be effective, and I think it’s pretty clear that Perry isn’t conventionally brilliant. My main contention here is that the things we do know about Perry–his staff, his record, his cultural presentation, etc.–lend themselves well to a Republican presidential candidate. And his weaknesses–the debating, the lack of preparation, etc.–may well be explicable and mitigated for this go-around. That uncertainty is why I see Perry as a sleeper, versus someone like John Kasich. Kasich’s weaknesses are clearer, and don’t come from areas where we lack information.

      Essentially, we won’t know for a few months whether it’s column A or column B, in terms of why Perry struggled, but that uncertainty is why Perry is the sleeper in the race. And the other stuff–that folks like Avik Roy are signing on–imply that people who may well have more information than we do are banking on Perry being better than he was in 2011.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:


      that because America is the land of second chances, anything is possible.

      I agree with your take on Perry, especially what we can infer about a person who, while on pain meds, continues to make poor decisions (ie., make a fool of himself).

      The other thing is that I agree with (edit: your rejection of) the italicized comment. My view is that we Americans tell ourselves we’re a forgiving people as compensation for our incredible lack of forgiveness. In fact, I think we (as a society!) do the opposite – continue to pummel people when they’re down only relenting when they’re forgotten – outa a desire to administer pain (as you wrote about recently).Report

    • America is the land of second chances

      Unless you do something unforgivable, like have your voice crack during a stump speech.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:


      Or to put it another and perhaps more accurate way, you have a candidate who most likely surrounded himself with yes-men who let him do so, told him he was doing awesome, and went on his merry way.

      Which appears to be a structural hazard of the GOP these days. That exact thing happened to Romney also, to the point he was shocked when he lost the election.

      I mean, we can all joke about GOP being out of touch, but this is something else. This is them having no idea how the public perceives them, which is a pretty stupid failure mode for a campaign.

      It’s probably due to:
      1) all the political grifters that hang out on the GOP side, people who have no skills at all but have made entire careers ‘advising’ the right
      2) the GOP establishment does not cause as much passion, especially at the primary stage, as the Dem establishment. (The GOP ‘rebels’ might cause passion, but that is exactly counterproductive.) So everyone involved is in it for the money.

      There’s probably a good post someone could make about that. Someone do that.Report

  8. Avatar ktward says:

    I’m really disappointed that Mr. Scotto hasn’t engaged in the thread, at all. I mean, there’ve been a number of thoughtful counterpoints made- even a long one from Tod.

    Guess I’ll just leave it at that.Report

  9. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Agreed with @kolohe above. This is a nice piece of analysis (more like it, please!), and it changed my view, though mostly from not having one to agreeing. But I am also skeptical that the debate performances were outliers for Perry. He’ll need to be strikingly better from jump, and stay that way.

    Maybe the glasses will help!Report

    • Avatar Dan Scotto says:

      Thanks! I appreciate the kind words, though I don’t think I’ll be doing much more on the 2016 election for now. I’m basically with the collective consensus, but for seeing Christie as overrated (even if he’s not highly rated right now), and Perry as underrated. Otherwise, I think that Bush, Walker, and Rubio make up the Republican top tier, Perry is the most likely candidate *outside* of the top tier to break into it, and everyone else is in their respective rearview mirrors.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

      Michael Drew: Maybe the glasses will help!

      Was gonna say that. Could solve the problem. Plus they make him look like Texan Clark Kent.Report

  10. Avatar DavidTC says:

    But Perry’s “three agencies” flub was a genuinely significant gaffe, because it bolstered an emerging narrative about Perry being “stupid” or unprepared.

    Obama wouldn’t have made the same gaff. If he had forgotten the name of the third agency halfway through, he would have said something else. *Anything* else. Something like ‘Of course, all agencies do something useful, so a list is a bit misleading. Really, we’d get rid of 80% of a bunch departments, merge the remainder together, what we call those remaining departments or what order we do it in isn’t that important…’…or some other bullshit thing. Instead of just standing there fumbling.

    Perry is just really that dumb, though. Even *before* that debate, ‘three agencies’ was part of his stump speech…and he screwed it up even *outside* that gaff, by switching in difference agencies. The three are either Commerce, Interior and Energy, or Commerce, Education and Energy, depending when you ask.

    The guy literally cannot remember a list of three government departments. Not just once. Multiple times.

    Comparisons to Bush are unfair…to Bush.Report