Perry Vs. Romney: The New Clinton Vs. Obama?

by Stuart Shapiro

When Governor Rick Perry entered the race many pundits thought that with his deep pockets and conservative appeal, he would be very hard to beat in the Republican primaries.  But between Perry’s weak debate performances, and a re-energized Governor Romney, the “smart” money is leaving Perry:

Mr. Perry’s Intrade contract has been bid down substantially since Thursday night’s debate. Going into the evening, bettors gave him roughly a 36 percent chance of winning the Republican nomination. Now, his odds are all the way down to 26 percent.

Nate Silver goes on to say, not so fast:

I understand that Mr. Perry had a poor evening on Thursday night. But that seems like an awfully strong reaction to it — probably an overreaction.

One misconception is that Mr. Perry’s standing had been declining in primary polls prior to Thursday evening. This simply isn’t the case, at least not to any degree of statistical significance.

It is often said that “Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line.”  Protracted primaries are very unusual in the Republican Party.  But this year may be different.  The Republican Party has a very real split between Tea Party conservatives (who will go to Perry, once Bachmann and Paul and others drop out) and establishment conservatives (who will go to Romney after Huntsman leaves).  Both candidates will be well funded.  Both have clear strengths (Romney: discipline and the electability argument, Perry (his southern accent and his “record”in Texas) and weaknesses (Romneycare and Perry’s position on Social Security).  Romney will win primaries in states that Democrats will carry next November and Perry will win them in ones that Republicans will carry regardless of the nominee.  This could go on a while.

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