By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 9/8/11
For the first time in 18 years I can say like Lincoln Steffens, that I have seen the future and it works. How things begin is important and the world began again last night with Mitt Romney to one side of Nancy Reagan and Rick Perry to the other. They seem to get along together potentially as a stellar team, like Lennon and McCartney, Fred and Ginger, Eisenhower and Nixon. The first few minutes were a hoot. The back and forth about jobs was clever and good humored. When Perry made the seemingly generous case that Romney had indeed created lots of jobs . . . “everywhere” Romney picked up instantaneously that the complement was not a complement and Perry was cleverly suggesting that Romney had sent jobs overseas. But it had a Rowan & Martin quality to it and Brian Williams and the audience got a huge kick out of it. An auspicious beginning. We thank the others for their support and interest. But from here on out, this is about Perry and Romney. It will be hard now to see them apart.
Debates are the least important part of a presidential race. This race will be won on the merits and character of the individuals. As President Elect Perry looks for a running mate he might now see the advantage of Mitt Romney. Perry, like Sarah Palin, rails against the nerd prom and the northeast political establishment, but he is not a radical. His swift sword is nearby and he is and was the first to raise the cry when the feds began the bailouts. But Romney spoke up in opposition as well when they bailout out Detroit. Perry does absorb the good, salient and necessary ideas that have come from Tea Party, Ron Paul et al and makes them fit. He metabolizes them and brings them to the mainstream and repudiates the rest. Romney on the other hand also speaks to these ideas and no one would be better at institutionalizing the new thinking and bringing it back home to the tradition.
But in my view the most important thing is that history must follow the contours of demographics and economy. Otherwise there will be trouble. And in our time demographics and economy have moved South, Southwest and West and demand western representation. Perry could well balance the ticket in the traditional fashion of bringing a northern pol in as VP. Romney fills the bill as he was Governor of Massachusetts and went to school here back east, but he is also as western as Perry is having made Morman passage through the Utah desert before he returned to us. This ticket would be about as American as it can get. And seeing them together they seemed to click. I think now they should not be pulled apart.
I’ve read their books, Perry’s “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington” and Romney’s “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.” Each a kind of driver’s manual for the man. They tell you little more than the debates do. But my impression is that Perry fully knows and understands himself and has for a long time. That might come with Texas. Romney is more interesting than he thinks he is, there is more subtlety and complexity to him than people see and more than he sees in himself. Romney is actually more the Lone Ranger. He wears the mask and is yet unrevealed even to himself, but events ahead will bring him out.