Last Wednesday night marked the first time I had ever been excited for a GOP presidential debate. No, I have not decided that the government is too big and simultaneously expanded the Department of Homeland Security tenfold. Nor have I become a pro-lifer that applauds the death of 234 executed inmates in the past year. In short, I have left the ridiculous inconsistencies to the Republican Party. Still, Wednesday night I felt compelled to watch the debate.
I was excited because it marked the grand entrance of our own governor onto the national stage. Sure, prior to the debate he had been leading in the polls, but I knew that once the rest of the country finally saw him and really listened to the absurd things he said, they would finally see him for the numskull we all know and dislike here at home.
Not only was I disappointed that all the subsequent coverage of the debate has done nothing to stop Gov. Rick Perry’s surge in the polls, but the guy I was expecting never showed up. Instead of a bumbling fool who would quickly be laughed out of the national arena, a calm, collected and slightly familiar-looking Perry entered the stage — I say “slightly familiar,” because at times, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two leading hopefuls on the stage: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.
I realize you’re shaking your head right now and pointing out all the obvious differences between them. Romney is a secret Democrat that was one of the first to support universal health care, and Perry is a former Democrat that was one of the first to suggest that Texas secede from the country.
But look at the two of them. Both are six-foot-something white men with huge chests and broad shoulders. Even though they’re both presumably middle aged, they both look as if they’re in marathon-running condition and could bench the average female college student’s weight. They both have the stance of men that know they’re in good shape and are expecting to be admired for it: chests out, heads held high, feet slightly spread apart. Some might even call them both physically attractive — and compared to the supporting cast on stage, they definitely were.
They both were dressed similarly Wednesday night, too.
Their ties were the exact same shade of pale blue. Given that the tie is the one chance a nominee has to individualize his dress and set himself apart from the giant crowd on stage, Romney and Perry both chose the same message to portray, at least via fashion.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these two are the frontrunners of the Republican Party. Both have been strong and commanding governors of their respective states, and both have been lauded nationally for their statewide efforts. Both can point to a rise in employment and pull out the ultimate trump card: a record of job creation.
But the sad news is that in the contest of comparisons, Perry comes out on top for two key reasons. First, he doesn’t have to fight for the Tea Party’s vote — he already has it, unlike Romney, who keeps begging them to like him, like the last kid to be picked for dodgeball. But they won’t. Not with Perry around.
Second, Perry doesn’t have that whole fancy-pants, rich upbringing that Romney does. While Romney went to private school and served as a Mormon missionary in France, Perry grew up on a ranch in Paint Creek, Texas, and became an Eagle Scout. Romney comes off as affluent and rich, while Perry is more of the salt-of-the-earth type who gets away with saying things such as “we need more boots on the ground” to describe actual policy plans. And while that’s laughable, it’s likeable as well. No one wants to pick the big scary businessman over the friendly rancher from next door.
Even though I don’t like Perry, I find myself wanting to. Sure, his views on social security are absurd, but he’s sticking to his guns, so to speak. While he is starting to get a reputation for spouting off, I think he comes across as a straight-shooter. Even though I disagreed with him when he called the current president an abject liar, I appreciated the sincerity behind it. Romney, on the other hand, points to his background as the CEO of Bain & Co., and I can’t help but be turned off by the implied underhandedness of a leader of such a huge company. To make things worse, I already know he’s completely reversed positions on health care and abortion, and I find myself wondering what he actually believes about anything.
I don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way. Perhaps after all our economic and foreign policy woes, the American people just want someone they feel they can trust, which could partly explain Perry’s continued lead in the polls.
Hate to break it to you Romney, but I think Perry pulled off the blue tie better this time around. It’s OK — the two of you can still talk about hair-care together.
Taylor is a Plan II and rhetoric and writing senior.