Posted on | September 23, 2012 | 14 Comments
Perry campaign volunteers, Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 9, 2011
“He surfed into the race on a tsunami wave of overconfidence, his campaign led by a bunch of cutthroat a–holes who had just finished sabotaging Newt Gingrich.
“They convinced a lot of people . . . to climb aboard The Smilin’ Texan Express for a one-way ride to glory.”
— Robert Stacy McCain, Nov. 29, 2011
Back during the primary campaign — and I think it was in January, but I could be wrong — Ace of Spades did a post in which he ranted sarcastically against “gut hunches” as a basis for political judgment. Perhaps it is solipsistic to imagine Ace had me in mind, just because my hunches during the campaign repeatedly proved more accurate than the predictions of the elite punditocracy.
Even before the campaign really began, I saw the enormous upside potential of Herman Cain’s candidacy at a time when most of the other reporters regarded him as a novelty lightweight. By the time he zoomed to the top of the polls in late September 2011, I looked like prescient genius, and if it hadn’t been for the unexpected (and, Herman still insists, entirely false) sexual allegations, who knows what might have happened?
As soon as the Cain Train ran off the rails, I jumped straight to the Santorum Express, at a time when he was the lowest underdog in the field. Again, my gut hunch proved prescient, and by the time the polls began to catch up with my gut, Santorum was on the verge of a stunning upset in the Iowa caucuses. Despite all the odds against him, until he finally dropped out in April, Santorum was the last viable alternative to Romney.
Many other things my gut also got right: Pawlenty was too boring, Huntsman was hopeless, the Gingrich bubble predictably imploded, and Sarah Palin never got past the “maybe” I got from her people when I tried to gauge her interest in the 2012 race back in early November 2010. (The well-placed source who, in June 2011, left me hanging in the wind with his word that Palin would make a final decision “within a week”? Yeah, maybe I ought to burn him, but he swears that was the word he got from Palin’s people, and I guess their mixed signals were not his fault.)
Of all my gut hunches, however, none was more accurate than the weird vibe I got in August 2011 about the Rick Perry campaign:
“What I fear will happen is that Perry will spend several months sucking up media oxygen and burning through GOP donor cash, only to collapse early next year. This will have the effect of suffocating other conservative candidates, and thereby lead to … Romney 2012.”
Something was definitely wrong with the Perry campaign, and if I couldn’t quite articulate the rational basis for that spooky foreboding, the deadly accuracy of my hunch was amply vindicated by subsequent events. So now comes Jay Root of the Texas Tribune to tell his own version of events:
At this point you may be wondering why anyone would write a book about a presidential candidate who made the word “oops” his calling card. The short answer is that “Oops! A Diary From the 2012 Campaign Trail” began not as a book but as a diary — a behind-the-scenes look at life on a modern presidential campaign. The “embed” reporters. The bus. The way news is really gathered in the age of Twitter and YouTube.
I had every reason to believe I was covering the eventual Republican nominee when Perry immediately shot to the top of the polls in the summer of 2011. By the time his campaign ground to a halt five months later, the words of the Democratic strategist James Carville, spoken on CNN in January, seemed like the most apt description of what I had witnessed: “the worst presidential campaign/candidate in American history.” . . .
Read the whole thing. It may not as interesting as some of my gut hunches, but it’s still pretty good.