Rick Perry, Manly Man

Twice in his speech in Waterloo, Iowa, the Texas governor drew laughs with gender stereotypes that might not play well elsewhere


DES MOINES, Iowa -- Paul Begala reports that Texas Gov. Rick Perry wore such tight jeans and "adjusted himself so often" as a young Democrat in the Texas state legislature Begala and a group of other aides called him "the Crotch."

That's an interesting data point, as two turns of phrase from the now-Republican governor of Texas last night to a GOP dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, suggest that the way Perry talks about women and deploys his masculinity on the stump will bear watching in the months ahead.

First, Perry invoked the old "girls have cooties" stereotype at the start of his Waterloo speech:

I was about eight years old, and my momma decided I needed to have some musical influences in my life. So I took piano lessons. Mom drove us 16 miles from out in the country into town, and I sat by a little blonde-headed girl.

I'm pretty sure I wasn't real happy about that at the moment, having to sit by a girl when I was eight years old.

Eight years later, I had my first date in my life with her.

And 16 years after that, I married her. Now that's a whole 'nother story about how long it took, that long.

But it just kind of goes to tell ya, sometimes it kind of takes me a while to get into something, like this presidential race. But lemme tell you something, when I'm in, I'm in all the way!

Then, after he finished speaking and was about to entertain questions, Perry took off his jacket and handed down from the stage to his wife at front-row table, who passed it on back to his daughter, who was wearing a sleeveless dress.

"Excuse me, my daughter's cold, so I gave her my jacket. And if this shirt's got a few wrinkles in it, it's not my wife's fault," Perry quipped. The crowd laughed.

Perry's cocky persona and apparent relish for playing gender stereotypes for laughs could sit uneasily with women in a general election contest. Of course, there's no evidence he's got any appeal to Democratic women in Texas -- or to Democrats there more generally -- but half of winning is avoiding angering the other side enough to turn out against you in force.

In any event, something to keep an eye on.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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