And, out of the gate…

As Perry announced his entry into the race he received a lot of media attention that portrayed him as a remedy to voter malaise about the GOP field. He was cast as a fresh, dynamic presence. He should have ridden this wave to lay the foundation for a good campaign.

Instead, he fumbled with an erratic, poorly disciplined performance that may have seriously hampered his campaign in what could have been his moment in the sun.

First, he got caught making up new federal regulations about farmers driving tractors needing commercial drivers licenses if they wanted to drive across the highway. His defense was that he heard it over dinner with Senator Chuck Grassley. Candidates have to learn to check his facts before making such attacks. This was a small mistake. However, voters will quit listening after they have heard candidates make too many misleading claims. Think of the story the “boy who cried wolf.”

Next, he accused Federal Reserve Board Chairmen Ben Bernanke of treason for “printing money” before the election. Attacking a Fed chief (originally appointed by George W. Bush) for supporting for the Federal Reserve Board’s intention of continuing the current policy of low interest rates as some kind of illegal conspiracy involving printing money is misleading. Tossing out the reference to treason is demagoguery.

Candidates have to strike a delicate balance in several ways. They have to generate some excitement–without becoming frantic. They also need to seem spontaneous–while still maintaining a disciplined message. Perry has already let his comments on minor issues (farmers on highways, the Federal Reserve Board) drown out his primary message (Jobs, jobs, jobs).

There are a lot of people trying to distract people from listening closely to Rick Perry. Rick Perry has become one of those.

Too often, Perry’s politics is like a wildfire–moving destructively in whatever direction the wind is blowing. Nick Anderson, cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle, pegged the Governor pretty well with this recent cartoon.

Perry needs to start introducing himself and his policies in a disciplined way. The question of who Rick Perry is will be answered in the next week or so. Perry can either tell that story himself or force voters to read between the lines of his erratic attacks on others.

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