One of my Christian lobbyist friends used to shake his head about Rick Perry's governship. He was not impressed.
"This is the least Christian administration of all my years in Austin. And that includes Democrat, Repblican, High Rollers and Holy Rollers," he would tell me.
When Governor Perry decided he wanted to be President Perry my immediate thought he was too much an intellectual light weight and carried some baggage with him. He came into the state legislature as a Democrat and switched parties when Texas demonstrated it was a one party state. He got rich while in the legislature. He seemed to have a down-home Texas insensitivity to post-modern sensibilities, i.e., the name of his leased hunting camp.
When he decided, some would say belatedly, to get in the GOP presidential race, he needed to show he could energize the Religious Right. He summoned some big church preachers, some television religious celebrities, all the kinds of religious people who make me want to be a Mayan. They listened to his "testimony" and decided they would fill Reliant Stadium for a prayer rally for America-Perry. Thirty thousand people of the promised fifty thousand showed up. Governor Perry's epiphany was assured.
Sadly, his election, or even nomination, was not. An uncomfortable speaker, Mr. Perry proved a really rotten "debater." No matter that these made for TV stump speeches should not be called debates. Whatever you call them, Mr. Perry was bad in front of the cameras, bad in front of the crowds, bad in front of the competition.
An "evangelical," Mr. Perry could not do well in a state (Iowa) made to order for an evangelical candidacy. Fifty seven per cent of Iowans say they are evangelical Christians. Shorn of their ethanol protections for the first time in decades, the Iowans still were not buying what Mr. Perry was selling. He finished behind a Mormon, a Baptist (Mr. Paul) and whatever it is Rick II claims to be.
Mr Perry took his candidacy home to Texas for a night to reassess. He decided he could not quit after one round and headed back out to South Carolina to see how he could do there.
I do not think Mr. Perry went to South Carolina to become Vice President, or get a Cabinet Post or position himself for an Obama-free 2016. Another disastrous showing in South Carolina will not only knock him out of the race but out of national consideration for a long time, if not for life.
No one can think Mr. Perry is punishing himself for past transgressions. There is just no way in Abilene he could possibly enjoy the humiliation that goes along with saying "oops," in front of a national audience.
We are left to consider this. Mr. Perry may be having a crisis of the soul, wherein he seeks to find himself and his real place in history.
He can take solace in offering what he can to the national debate. One need not be a great speaker to be a great President. Truman was marvelously effective in office but he was not great on a platform. Nixon was one of the most uncomfortable speakers you could ever hear but he was a tremendous leader and thinker.
Conversely, Mr. Clinton was one of the most efffective speakers of all the presidents. He was in office for eight years, talking endlessly and powerfully. He carried out various Republican policies, never intiated anything memorable of his own and left remembered as the second president to be impeached.
The other great speakers, Kennedy and Reagan, had something Mr. Clinton did not have while in office. They each had an "Off" switch. Mr. Clinton never knew when to stop talking.
So, Mr. Perry does not need to be a great speaker. He needs (and needed and will need) to demonstrate there is a point to his candidacy other than a few rich preachers prefer him to Romney and Paul. He has not made a connection with voters for whom he must fight because he has never yet demonstrated a point to his candidacy.
Yet, the images of Mr. Perry after the Iowa debacle were those of a man in deep distress. When one enters the dark night of the soul, he might run home and hide. Mr. Perry went home for a night and then returned to the fight. He has little chance to derail Mr. Romney or even pull even with Ron Paul. He will likely move around in fourth place for awhile, jockeying with whichever Huntsman/Santorum candidacy pulls in enough agenda driven locals to edge out the other.
Along the way, he may start to find a depth to himself no one believed was there. Governor Perry will probably never be President Perry. He may, however, may become what he has claimed to be during this campaign; an evangelical believer. He might become a better governor because of his run for the White House.
Opinions expressed here are mine alone.