Perry's Fragile Lead

Written by David Frum on Thursday August 25, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has surged ahead in the Republican polls, occupying territory previously held by Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump: the "won't somebody save us from Mitt Romney" slot. Because Perry is a more plausible candidate than either Bachmann or Trump (he is a state governor after all), journalists have readily accepted his surge as the for-real thing. Maybe.

Yet despite his record of raising funds and winning elections in Texas, Perry suffers from the same ultimate problem as Bachmann and Trump: he's an incredibly vulnerable candidate, and those vulnerabilities will come under intense scrutiny during his stint in the spotlight.

Do Republicans really want to run a candidate who has put in writing his opposition to Social Security and Medicare? Do they really want to volunteer to reverse this election from a referendum on President Obama's record to a referendum on Rick Perry's intentions? Is "don't believe my book" really going to impress frightened older voters as much of a talking point? Remember, House Republicans have already voted to end the Medicare guarantee for future generations. So deniability is getting to be a problem here. Or is the plan to follow Rumsfeld's rule: If you can't solve a problem, make it bigger?