It’s a good ad.
There’s a problem, though – Perry isn’t going to get anywhere beating Romney up.
Three-quarters of the GOP electorate doesn’t want to vote for Romney. They want to vote for somebody else. Attacking Romney won’t get you the three-quarters. They’re going to say “tell me something I DON’T know, like why you’re the guy I should support instead of Newt or Cain or Santorum or Bachmann or Ron Paul.”
And this ad, good though it might be, won’t do that.
What Perry needs to do is to start giving major policy speeches. He’s hinted at immigration, and his message gets stronger on that subject as he addresses it. Now he’s starting to offer specifics on Social Security, like his hint at the obvious-though-frightening fact that we’re going to have to raise the age for folks to start receiving it over the weekend.
His biggest challenge is to offer a vision of what a Rick Perry-in-the-White House America would look like. He’s already sketched that out with the one sentence he’s offered in that regard to the effect that he’ll do everything in his power to make Washington as inconsequential to people’s lives as possible. That’s a great line. He needs to expand on it and tell folks what that will mean – not in the sense that Obama went around the country bragging about how he could stop the oceans from rising; people will get disgusted if Perry promises the moon that way, but to say things like “I’m getting the Feds out of the education business, which means you’re going to have to start paying attention to who’s on your local school board” or “we’re going to start eliminating a ton of federal regulation, and that means you’re going to have to become a more informed and choosier consumer” and stuff like that.
Is it risky? Maybe. Perry’s stock shot up not just because he was the new guy in the race; his stock shot up because folks thought he’d be the tough-talkin’, sense-makin’, no-BS guy from Texas who would call out Ben Bernanke and tell the truth about Social Security. Those folks became a lot less sure about Perry’s fitness to carry that standard when he developed a case of marble-mouth on the Gardasil and in-state tuition issues, and that gave Cain his current opening. But Cain’s opening is quite likely to close if he doesn’t translate it into some major-league fundraising.
In other words, Perry is really running against Cain right now – or, perhaps more accurately, he’s running against himself. Perry has to present himself as the guy conservatives really do want. He’d do well to offer a more plausible tax reform alternative than Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, which doesn’t particularly survive scrutiny, but otherwise it’s not in Perry’s interest to beat Cain up. He needs to compliment Cain and position himself as the second choice for Cain’s supporters, who used to be Perry people six weeks ago and will come home if Cain can’t continue his current boomlet. That means not attacking Cain but rather bolstering his own message and presentation.
Either way, beating on Romney – as famously and effectively as he does in the ad above – isn’t the best use of his time. Romney isn’t Perry’s problem.