Governor Perry was on academic probation in college, but he is a brilliant politician. His first strategic goal was to stop Congresswoman Bachmann's momentum that threatened to consolidate dominant conservatives around her and not him.
Mission accomplished. Bachmann will not be the nominee, is falling in the polls, a good 15 to 25 points behind Perry. How did he do it? His credibility as a governor plus red meat for key constituencies did the trick.
The prayer rally in Houston cemented the Christian right to his campaign; his threats aimed at Ben Bernanke rallied the anti-tarp populists and gold bugs; and his blasts at social security as a "monstrous lie" thrilled the financial industry, libertarians, and privatizers.
At the same time Perry stopped Bachmann cold, the President's polling numbers tumbled, making Perry competitive with the President, thereby lessening Romney's electability argument.
A perfect start requires both smarts and luck.
Perry would have been delighted with successfully vaulting past Bachmann, while being a few points behind Romney. But his perfect start means he is now 6 to 14 points ahead of Governor Romney, the establishment's candidate or Karl Rove's man.
And so Perry is way ahead of schedule in achieving his second strategic goal: consolidating conservatives behind him in a head-to-head struggle with an isolated Romney in his establishment fort.
Is there anything Romney can do to turn the tide? Probably not, but I will offer a Hail Mary play for Romney in a coming post.