Pull the Covers Over Your Head If You Like, But Rick Perry's Not Going Away

I've been on Rick Perry Watch for several weeks, working on a feature story about him. I think I'm going to be able to break the news that he's serious about running for president.

Just kidding. I'll try to do better than that. But, man, everybody in American journalism is on this case. Just today there are a couple of interesting stories, one in The Dallas Morning News and the other in The New York Times. I think they both point to the same thing I'm finding.

It's bad news for people who want to think of him as a phantom that goes bump in the night and then goes away. He's real. He really is under your bed, and he is not going away.

The Morning News coverage, which is behind the paper's pay wall, is in a story by Tom Benning about tonight's upcoming Republican debate. In it, Benning quotes some interesting people, some of whom have gone up against Perry in debates before and most of whom say he's a good debater.

That flies in the face of a certain expectation -- that Rick Perry is Rick Pretty, a cloud of airborne fluff that will dissipate like cottonwood seeds in a summer breeze on Paint Creek. The people in Benning's story echo what I've been getting, some of it from fairly serious Perry foes. They say it's seriously important not to underestimate his smarts.

He may not be smart in a way that resonates with Yalies. But, you know, neither was Bush II, and he was a Yalie.

The Times story is about the formation of a super PAC that says it's going to spend $55 million on Perry's candidacy. That's very serious money. The fact that it has come together this soon after Perry's late entry into the race may augur even more money ahead. And really big money means one thing in American politics: juggernaut.

People who want to fold their hands and pray him out from under their beds are putting some of their faith in the content of his books, especially the last one, Fed Up, in which he pretty much vows to gut Social Security and Medicare, and it does seem like a book is a hard thing to wriggle away from. One doesn't become an author in the heat of the moment, after all. The late Tony Garrett, a grizzled veteran of statehouse politics, told me once that every politician's prayer should be, "Please Lord, that my opponent may write a book."

But I don't know. I wonder sometimes how many Americans out there still know what a book is. You could hand a lot of them Perry's book, and they'd start searching for the on button.

I do understand why some people fear Perry. My question is whether they fear him enough. Tonight will tell.

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