Well it’s finally happened. Rick Perry’s campaign, derailed by poor debate performance and an insistence by some members of the conservative punditariat that vaccines were more important than a record of job creation, has ended.
It ended on a good note, as Perry left the race without playing spoiler. His supporters in South Carolina represent a not-insignificant number of voters who could tip the balance in this primary. If the goal is to deny Mitt Romney victory in SC and begin to arrest his momentum, Perry did the right thing by dropping out.
I’m not sure I agree with his endorsement of Gingrich. I understand an endorsement as a political move, certainly. I haven’t sorted through all my feelings about Newt, though. On the one hand I really like his style and he does have a record of achievement. On the other hand, I really dislike some elements of his style and his record of scandal. Is it possible to simultaneously dislike and admire pomposity? I’m terribly confused about this whole thing.
I don’t want to dwell on what might have been if Perry had performed well, or if he hadn’t been hit with the somehow-relevant-to-a-jobs-election Gardasil attack, or if Mitt Romney’s people hadn’t attacked him from the left on Social Security. The fact is that the voters in Iowa and NH made their views quite clear. I won’t even entertain the notion that many of the fine people who voted in those states were Democrats. I’m not bitter, and it wouldn’t do any good to nurse a grudge anyway.
So now I have a choice to make. Do I support Gingrich, as Perry suggests? What about Rick Santorum, who matches my views on social issues but perhaps not on the size and scope of government? Should I begin abusing drugs, the better to inure myself to eventual support of Ron Paul? That would be the most fun, I think.
Or, here’s a crazy idea: Perhaps I should get on board with Romney. I supported him over McCain in 2008. Funny thing: my dislike of Mike Huckabee is entirely due to Huck’s inability to reconcile his campaign’s fate to mathematical certitude, which I felt cost Romney the nomination. Huck was the spoiler in 2008 that Perry refused to become. But political allegiances shift with the times, and this year I find that Romney is not the most attractive option for defeating Barack Obama. That option just left the race today.
Truth be told, I’ll end up supporting one of these men by summertime. I will pull the lever dutifully in November. I may even defend the reputation of the candidate from unfair Democratic attacks. But I think especially in the case of Romney, it will be a bloodless sort of defense.
Petty? Short-sighted? Bitter? Maybe a little.
I will wait until the South Carolina primary ends to see whether I should throw my money to Romney or one of his arguably more conservative opponents. Until then, I’ll just hang round the outside and heap scorn on the deserving.