Gov. Rick Perry is a riskier presidential candidate than Mitt Romney, Dave Keene, the former chairman of the American Conservative Union, tells Newsmax.
“What Republican voters want is an end to Barack Obama, and as a consequence, when they look at whether the two candidates are viable, Romney has an unspoken advantage,” Keene says. “They will see him as somebody who is more solid, more reliable, more steady, and less risky than Perry.”
One of the country’s most astute political observers, Keene told me for a Newsmax story just after Obama was elected that he “did not win for the reasons he thinks he did, and he can be counted on to overreach, helping to return Republicans to power.”
|Rick Perry and Mitt Romney
Keene says he likes Perry and wrote a blurb for his book. But he says, “I think that a lot of Republican voters as well as general public this year aren’t into more risks. So Perry has to really perform well, once he has gotten on the stage, to convince them that he is not too risky.”
That is not impossible, Keene says.
“Ronald Reagan did it,” Keene notes. “After Reagan got nominated, he was behind for a while because people wanted to vote for him but they didn’t know whether they could. They didn’t know whether they could take that risk.
"They desperately wanted to fire Jimmy Carter, but they didn’t know if they could do it. But after one of the debates, it was as if everybody in America woke up and said we can do this, and at that point Reagan surged.”
Ultimately, “The public got comfortable enough with Reagan and knew that his first act wasn’t going to be to blow up the world; once they realized that, they knew they could vote for him,” Keene says.
So far, Perry has not provided that reassurance and has contributed to doubts about him with his comment that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, Keene says. While everyone knows Social Security is a problem, calling it a Ponzi scheme without talking about how it should be reformed was a mistake, Keene says.
“The difficulty is that in order to sell a reasonable reform, which is going to have to be made, you have to be able to convince people that you want to save it or make it better, rather than attacking the whole idea as a dumb idea,” Keene says.
Perry has since tried to walk back his remarks as his lead over Romney in the polls has narrowed.
“He can come back from that, but that’s where he is vulnerable — not because he said that Social Security doesn’t work — but because he said there shouldn’t be anything like that,” Keene says.
As Keene sees it, Perry’s candidacy could help Romney become a stronger candidate.
“If Romney gets a stiff challenge from Perry and survives that challenge, he’ll be a far better general election candidate,” Keene says.
“On the other hand, if he doesn’t survive it and Perry wins, Perry will be a very strong general election candidate as well. Whether he does may depend on some of his mistakes. The question remains whether this first time through he can handle these issues.”
In the meantime, “Romney’s got a challenger who is capable of giving him a good race, and that’s good for the party,” Keene says.
The choice will come down to which candidate is riskier.
“If you have two candidates, one of whom you know can handle the minefield and the other one you don’t know if he can handle the minefield, and they are both conservatives, then what do you do?” Keene says.
“That changes your choice. It doesn’t mean that you are wrong for going for one as opposed to the other, but the equation is such that somebody like me at least would say let’s keep the prize in mind: winning this election against Obama.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," has just been published. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email. Go Here Now.
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