Despite a long history of ideological heterodoxy, Mitt Romney has managed to move through the Republican nomination process unscathed by conservative attacks. To a large degree, you can say that Romney has been blessed with terrible opponents. Lower-tier candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have never posed a threat to the Romney juggernaut, while genuine challengers like former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty have floundered when offered the chance to ding Romney and take the shine off of his campaign.
At one point, Texas Governor Rick Perry was the hoped-for challenger to the Romney machine—on paper, at least, he was primed to knock Romney off of the map with well-placed attacks on his record as the moderate, reform-minded governor of a liberal state. But Perry entered the primary after a decade of easy wins in his home state and was unprepared for the rigors of a high-profile nomination contest. At debates and other events, Perry missed his mark and gave Romney a chance to reclaim the front-runner position.
Even with his slide in the polls, however, Perry hasn’t left the game yet. And to prove the point, he’s released the anti-Romney attack ad that conservatives have been waiting for:
Of course, with $15 million in the bank, it’s not hard for Perry to produce a decent television spot. The question is whether he can execute his attacks—in real time—during a presidential debate. With tomorrow’s event in New Hampshire, he’ll have a chance to prove himself. If he can manage his attacks on Romney and hold his own against the rest of the Republican field, then he might not be as down and out as he looked.