Ah! Fresh meat!
That's what's on the mind of political pundits this week as they come down off the high of the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames. With nothing to report until–well–something unpredictable happens, or until the Iowa caucuses in January, the media and blogosphere will gush with pedantics about this outsider to the GOP fratricide-fest that has been the 2012 presidential nominating process thus far.
Unless something extraordinary happens, Texas Governor Rick Perry will be the GOP and Tea Party presidential nominee in 2012. He's the darling of the extreme right and can be stomached by party moderates who know Mitt Romney has no chance of winning the top spot on the ticket without flip-flopping on nearly all of his social positions. So, no big deal, we're looking at Rick Perry.
Here is some friendly advice that an opposing campaign should follow–Republican, Democrat or Independent:
1) Texas Governor Rick Perry shall not be referred to as the “Wal-Mart Candidate,” or “[Insert Fast-Food Chain Here] Candidate.”
Though bulk international realtors like Wal-Mart and unhealthy fast-food companies have crumbled the professional occupational base of this country, they remain wildly popular with folks struggling to get by on an unemployment check or–surprise, surprise–a minimum-wage job from one of the aforementioned. By undermining American business, Wal-Mart and McDonald's can afford to churn out cheap (both quantitative and qualitative) goods; in tough economic times, folks are almost forced to shop here in order to feed and clothe their families. Many feel they don't have an option.
Scoffing at Wal-Mart or fast food will almost certainly alienate the working families needed to win this election. The Texas Governor's opposition will thus have popularly branded him without any effort on his part.
2) Don't call him “Ricky Perry,” either.
Haven't you seen Talledega Nights? This moniker will only draw comparisons with Will Ferrell's character, Ricky Bobby. Yet another popular brand not to bestow on the Tea Party Candidate for President.
3) Refer to him as Texas Governor Rick Perry as much as possible.
Voters remember the last Governor from Texas in the White House–they sent a very resounding message that he messed things up for the country pretty bad with their vote in 2008.
(Disclaimer: Don't push this point too hard or mention George W. Bush too often. You'll look petty and juvenile.)
4) Refer to him as the Tea Party Candidate for President whenever possible.
The Tea Party has a very high unfavorability rating among Independents and voters who have not yet made up their mind in this election. And make no mistake: Texas Gov. Rick Perry got into this race because he knows he will have Tea Party support the whole way.
5) Do NOT mock Texas Governor Rick Perry's faith.
Democrats and Independents who mock the faith of Texas Gov. Perry will absolutely be labeled as anti-Christian, anti-moral, typical liberals. This couldn't be more untimely, as voters are finally seeing that being a good Christian in America means the Republican Party isn't the only political congregation available. Progressive Christians put their faith into action every day through actual works of good both within government and without–highlight that heavily instead.
6) Do NOT mention his work for Al Gore…
…Unless you're using it to highlight his flip-flopping on the issues or you live in a district where Gore is rabidly unpopular. Campaign on his work for the former Democratic Vice President and you're just asking for voters to infer that he is bipartisan–big mistake. This guy is no Reagan.
7) Talk a lot about secession.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry advocated that policy for Texas for a time–do you really think a man who preached absolute disunion deserves the highest office in the land? Frame the choice as between a candidate of Lincoln and government “of the people, by the people, for the people” versus a candidate of discord and yesterday.
8) Show you have gall and grit when it comes to standing up for your faith; don't allow it to be used as Texas Governor Perry did.
If he is bringing showmanship-faith into the public debate, good Christians of any political persuasion are entitled to remind the Texas Governor: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:5) Don't cede an inch of ground to the Tea Party Candidate for President on this issue. His brand of Christianity is a sensationalist, boastful brand; highlight the alternative, which is true, humble, oats-and-barley faith.
9) Texas Governor Rick Perry is responsible for the death of 234 Americans.
For what it's worth. Emphasize that one can be tough on crime without condoning more murder, which is what Texas' death penalty allows–the most extreme of all fifty states.
10) If all else fails, give him the “$500 Hair Cut” treatment.
Hey, it worked against John Edwards. Sorry men, if you've got good hair, expect to have it used against you by the majority of the country bereft of such a privileged feature.
This is by no means an all-inclusive instruction manual on how to defeat Texas Governor Rick Perry, but it should be a starting point. There is no need to campaign negative or maliciously, but an informative opposition drive is necessary to lay bare the Tea Party Candidate.
In politics, like in football, there are no pre-ordained candidates. On any given election day, the campaign that has worked the hardest–and the smartest–with enough heart and drive will win the day. Let that be your mantra for a better American campaign in 2012.