The Spectacle Blog

Lessons for Rick Perry, Courtesy of Michele Bachmann

By on 8.16.11 | 2:20PM

As Joe points out, Rick Perry is catching some flak for an ill-advised comment that he made yesterday about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Perry criticized Bernanke in a way that Perry's critics can say intimates or threatens violence.

John Podhoretz calls Perry's comment a "serious unforced error." That it was, but it also helps to illuminate the importance of a hotly contested presidential campaign.

One of the important things about a presidential campaign is that it allows us to see how a candidate responds under pressure. It allows us to see who he (or she) really is.

As Podhoretz says,

I think it's pretty clear from the clip that Perry was trying to play folksy straight-talkin' populist guy while taking up a complicated issue using colorful dirt-kicker language to connect to his al-fresco audience as he might in his hometown of Paint Creek.

But in politics, as in football, too many unforced errors can result in a loss. We'll have to see how Perry performs over the course of a long campaign. But one big reason Obama got elected president, despite a scant public record, is that he remained disciplined and focused.

Obama didn't allow himself to get sidetracked by unforced errors and gaffes. He didn't commit turnovers which would have allowed his opponents to score points against him. Instead, Obama was the model of political efficiency and single-mindedness.

If the Republicans are to recapture the White House in 2012, then their standard-bearer is going to have to be similarly disciplined and focused. He's gonna have to realize that he's in the political big leagues now, with the glare and scrutiny of the national media always searing into him.

This is something that political candidates tend to learn and internalize only within the crucible of a hard-fought political campaign. And that is why, I think, Michele Bachmann has become a much better and more deliberative presidential candidate.

"Bachmann is clearly being vigilant to avoid any new misstatements," reports Katrina Trinko. Thus her "defining moment" in the Ames, Iowa debate, where she deftly deflected Byron York's question about being "submissive" to her husband. And thus her wise refusal, on ABC News' This Week, to be baited into a debate about the relative health effects of homosexuality and heterosexuality.

Of course, Bachmann's improvement as a presidential candidate is hardly surprising. She's been out on the campaign trail for months now, and, even before that, had grown accustomed to the harsh, penetrating glare of the national media.

Perry, by contrast, is a newbie to presidential politics and has yet to learn how unforgiving the national media can be, especially to conservatives. But how well Perry handles his newfound publicity absolutely should be a factor in the minds of Republican primary voters, because that will determine, in large measure, whether he can be elected president in a general election.

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