With Tim Pawlenty out and Rick Perry in, where does the GOP contest stand?
We are looking at a Mitt Romney Rick Perry two-man race unless Michele Bachmann or Jon Huntsman steps up. (An Iowa straw-poll win is not enough.) The Texas governor's entry creates immediate problems for front runner Romney, who now has to divert his strategic focus from President Obama to engage in a fierce intraparty rhetorical battle. There is a silver lining for Romney: the threat of a Perry nomination could push fence-sitting GOP establishment figures into Romney's arms. And if Romney wins, he will emerge as a stronger nominee for having beaten a warrior like Perry.
How can Perry prove he is the real deal?
Quickly raise the millions of dollars that would demonstrate he and Romney alone belong in the first tier. Make a compelling case that he has better ideas for job creation than either Romney or Obama. And nix the kinds of over-the-top statements he made in his first week on the trail, such as questioning Obama's love of America and suggesting that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke would be treated "pretty ugly" on Texas soil for his monetary policy.
Is all this good or bad for the President?
After the debilitating debt-ceiling debacle revealed signs of polling weakness, Obama is enjoying an August political mini-comeback simply by reaping the indirect benefits of Perry's candidacy. The Texan's entry makes it more likely that the Republican-nomination battle will go longer, get uglier and force Romney (still seen by the White House as the most likely and most dangerous general-election foe) further to the right.