Visualize Rick Perry

I’d like to see them do away with the New Hampshire primary. It no longer means much. Ours was once considered the heart of rugged independence; itinerant mountain brahmins making do in pickups held together with Bondo and houses built by the hands of husband and wife with wood cut and milled from their own land. I know more than a few like that up here today, but many who can change both a diaper and the engine of an F150 have moved to Alaska. Or Texas.

What happened is the roads got too good and the cars too pleasurable to ride in; air-conditioned, four-wheel drive — you can listen to opera all the way from New Hampshire to the job in Boston. Today it is all about Iowa.

In a forecast for The Week, The New York Times’s Ross Douthat is quoted as saying that with Huckabee out, Tim Pawlenty “has an excellent shot at a clean victory in Iowa.” That, of course, is if Palin stays out. But one problem, says Amy Sullivan in Time. Evangelicals and value voters “don’t know who he is.” Tim who? But they know who Sarah Palin is.

And in The Wall Street Journal this morning, “The stumbling start of Newt Gingrich and the withdrawals of Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump from the presidential race have boosted Mitt Romney's standing in the Republican nominating contest, while opening lanes for other candidates to jump in.”

But what about Iowa? How’s he going to do there? And as Iowa goes, so goes South Carolina. And how’s that RomneyCare thing working out with heartland voters?

Last year Sarah Palin said she would enter if no one else with Tea Party karma came forward. I thought she was talking about Rick Perry, governor of Texas. Then Perry said the same thing. I thought he was talking about Sarah Palin.

Real Clear Politics reports that a presidential push for Perry is quietly gaining steam: “Gov. Rick Perry has insisted on multiple occasions that he has no interest in the presidency, but RCP has learned that political associates have begun to nose around quietly on Perry's behalf.”

And this phrase well sizes it up: “As many grassroots Republicans remain in search of a conservative candidate with the pizazz to go toe to toe against President Obama, a man from deep in the heart of Texas who was Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool appears to be giving the presidential race some thought.”

Don’t underestimate the pizzazz thing. It is an absolute necessity in Hamiltonian populist politics. It has been since Lincoln, since Jackson, since Washington. And Mitt Romney has zero pizzazz. Same with Pawlenty, Daniels and what’s-his-name. When they pull out the Harleys and the electric guitars to show they’re not squares, it makes it worse.

History naturally follows the contours and demographics of power; it goes where the people and the economy go. It must. Otherwise it will bring neurosis, novelty candidates and kook presidents (or relatives of former presidents or people who look like former presidents), division, culture clash and even warfare. America has been heading west since the post-war period began and even since the beginning. That is the meaning of Ronald Reagan. Rick Perry is the next best step in this original American journey of natural statehood.