Widespread Panic That Rick Perry Might Actually Win

Texan shocks lefties into action--but conservatives are worried, too

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Everyone's terrified of Rick Perry: lefties, righties, and definitely those coyotes he says he executes while jogging. Politico's Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman report that Perry has done what up to this point President Obama could not: "wake up the left." Activists--involved in everything from the death penalty, women's rights, gun control, and campaign finance--are just cold freaking the heck out. "To the degree to which progressives are disaffected and unenthusiastic -- this is their 'holy sh**' moment," Jennifer Palmieri, head of the Center for American Project Action Fund, told Politico. It's funny because many conservatives -- not just the dreaded establishment! -- think it's their own 'holy shit' moment too."

Politico explains that it's not just the policies Perry pursued during his 11 years as Texas governor--like the law blocked by a federal judge Monday requiring women who want abortions to listen to the fetus' heartbeat. It's the culture thing:
The epidemic of lefty angst isn’t just a matter of specific Perry policies though; it goes to the heart of the liberal worldview. His smashing debut on the presidential stage suggests that the victory of an urban liberal Democrat, Barack Obama, wasn't a step toward a more progressive nation, but just a leftward swing of an increasingly wild pendulum, now poised to rocket to the right. 
Politico's Jonathan Martin tweets that Wednesday's op-ed page in The Washington Post "neatly illustrates" the panic among liberals. And indeed, there's Ruth Marcus thumbing through Perry's book and finding disturbing reading: "Whoa! These are not mainstream Republican views." And Dana Milbank of Perry's fondness for theocracy: "By his own account, he is a cultural warrior, seeking to save marriage, Christmas and the Boy Scouts from liberals, gay people and moral relativism."
Business Insider's John Ellis argues that the Republican nomination is now Perry's to lose: "It will take something serious, something big and proven to bring him down." But it's not just liberals panicking over that thought. Conservatives are, too. Last week we noted that establishment conservatives fear a Perry-provoked culture war--a surprising development, given that in red-vs.-blue, even the most uppity conservatives get to act like they killed their dinner with their bare hands while liberals are stuck sipping various beverages in a most dainty manner. "[F]olksiness isn't a substitute for seriousness," National Review's Jonah Goldberg said. Perry's "primary flaw appears to be a chesty, quick-draw machismo that might be right for an angry base but wrong for an antsy country," The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan warned.
Hot Air's Jazz Shaw frets that Perry might be "Obama's last, best hope." Obama "might be seeing a slender ray of light on an otherwise fairly dark electoral horizon" with Perry's new dominance of the 2012 field, Shaw writes, because he plays perfectly into Democrats' favorite ways to demonize Republicans:
Team Obama must be smiling, thinking of how Perry is already filming their own attack ads for them every time he comes out and says that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme. ... Poll after poll shows that while Americans have slowly come to realize that some changes will need to be made to the program, they oppose any cuts in benefits by a huge margin.
Come debate time, I assume that Obama will already have some sound bites warmed up and ready to go. "I'm the guy who's trying fix and save Social Security for you. And over there you’ve got the guy calling it a Ponzi Scheme. Who ya gonna trust?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.