By most accounts, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entry into the Republican presidential contest has been disastrous for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor had been all but assured of the party’s nomination until Perry big-footed him last month, offering the promise of a candidate who could unite the restive Tea Party movement and the traditional Republican establishment.
Now, however, Perry’s sheen has started to fade, as the Texas governor makes one inflammatory comment after another. Perhaps he has yet to conform to the mold of a national candidate, but Perry has so far resisted opportunities to mollify his brash, shoot-from-the-hip approach. Perry’s swagger is what makes him appealing to the conservative activists who dominate the GOP electorate, but the hard edge on his rhetorical style also threatens to alienate the moderate and independent voters he’ll need to defeat President Obama in a general election.
Calling the chairman of the Federal Reserve “treasonous” is one thing — monetary policy is obscure enough, and picking on the mild-mannered accountant-in-chief probably isn’t all that unpopular among conservative diehards. Perry’s searing criticisms of Social Security, however, are quite another. Perry has derided the program as “a Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie,” questioning both its fiscal solvency and its Constitutionality. In a book published last year, Perry wrote that Social Security is “by far the best example” of a program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.”