The Outsider Takes On the Insiders


Eileen Smith

That’s what the American people want, and an outsider like Rick Perry is gonna do that.
—Rick Perry, Iowa Republican debate, December 11

Bus Boy

When your numbers are down and your chances are slim, there’s nothing quite like hitting the open road in a big-ass bus. Nothing says “outsider” like a last-ditch 44-city bus tour through the great state of Iowa. As in, maybe an “establishment” candidate like Mitt Romney can afford a first-class plane ticket but I’m such an outsider I’m coming in by bus. Mostly because my campaign funds have dried up. Perry drove his outsider status home this week with a new ad entitled, well, “Outsider.” In it he says that Washington is the “capital of political correctness” where “the truth is frowned upon.” Guess who can fix it? A politically incorrect outsider who will tell you the truth. An outsider like Rick Perry.

Perry has a strong disdain for the insiders—the elites, the DC politicos, the men who casually wager $10,000 bets, the so-called intellectuals. For example, only an insider would know things like how many judges sit on the Supreme Court. While discussing President Obama’s activist judges with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, Perry was unable to come up with the correct number of Supreme Court justices—hint: more than eight—or the actual name of Sonia Sotomayor—hint: it’s not Montemayor. But as Perry later pointed out on Fox News Sunday, Americans aren’t “looking for a robot that can spit out the name of every Supreme Court justice.” (Personally I’d prefer the robot.)

On Monday during a campaign speech in Ames, Iowa, Perry confused Solyndra, the Obama-backed renewable energy company, with a country. “No greater example of [government spending] than this administration sending millions of dollars into the solar industry, and we lost that money,” Perry said. “I want to say it was over $500 million that went to the country Solyndra.” I hear Solyndra’s beautiful this time of year.

Don’t Bet On It, Bring It

During last weekend’s debate, Perry had a confrontation with Romney that ended in a bet because arm wrestling would have been gauche. Perry accused Romney of supporting individual mandates and Romney responded by trying to bet Perry $10,000 that he was wrong. Clearly only an insider would pull such a stunt. How could an outsider like Perry possibly come up with that kind of money? That’s a whole month’s rent for his ridiculously lavish taxpayer-supported estate. The Perry campaign jumped on this exchange with another new ad entitled “The Truth Cannot Be Bought,” capitalizing on the fact that Perry is just an aw-shucks small-town son of two earnest tenant farmers trying to make ends meet, like the rest of us.

Well, obviously growin’ up where I grew up…in a house that didn’t have running water until I was five or six years old and my mother sewin’ my own clothes for me till I went off to college. Luxury really wasn’t in my lexicon.
—Rick Perry

I didn’t grow up poor. And if somebody is looking for someone who’s grown up with that background, I’m not the person.
—Mitt Romney

All Eyes on Hawkeye

During Thursday’s Republican debate from Sioux City, the last televised debate before the Iowa caucuses, Perry compared himself to the once underestimated NFL quarterback Tim Tebow saying that he hopes to be “the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.” Please. The only similarity between Perry and the quarterback of the Denver Broncos is their ingratiating sanctimony.

Meanwhile it looks like Newt Gingrich’s comeback kid status may be losing some of its luster. According to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, Iowa could be a virtual three-way tie with Gingrich receiving 23 percent of the vote and Ron Paul and Romney receiving 20 percent. But a Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday showed Romney now in the lead with 23 percent and Gingrich a close second with 20 percent. (A month ago Gingrich was far out in front with 32 percent.) Ron Paul’s a solid third with 18 percent and Perry’s in fourth with 10 percent. Some candidates who don’t make it into the top three in an early primary state like Iowa would seriously consider packing it in. But not a true outsider. Perry told Fox News that even if he finishes fourth, he’ll still go on to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida (sounding something like Howard Dean but without the yelp). He said that voters in other states need to meet him up close to see what he’s all about. “They want to touch you, feel you and sniff on ya.” I can’t think of a better reason to keep going.

This week the editors of the conservative National Review warned against nominating a loose cannon like Newt Gingrich and while they said that voters should give “serious consideration” to Romney, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman, they stopped short of endorsing anyone. Perry will be happy to know that he was at least mentioned: “Governor Perry has done an exemplary job in Texas but has seemed curiously and persistently unable to bring gravity to the national stage. Republican presidential candidates have not been known for their off-the-cuff eloquence in recent decades, but conservatism should not choose a standard-bearer who would have to spend much of his time untying his own tongue.”

Clearly the National Review doesn’t know a real outsider when they see one. Maybe they should take a longer look. And a bigger sniff.