For a while, the Republican presidential nominating contest was between Mitt Romney and a bunch of underperforming candidates. Then Michele Bachmann entered the race, offering a shiny new object for everyone to look at for a couple of weeks. She was charismatic, novel, and extremist enough to appeal to the large portion of the Republican primary electorate for whom there is no such thing as being too conservative. But then a new shiny object popped up, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is also charismatic, novel, and extremist. So Bachmann is sinking, and Perry is on top for the moment.
What Perry is discovering is that you can be governor of the second-largest state in the country for a decade, but you haven't really been probed until you've been probed by the national media. People are now investigating everything about his time in office, and even before. They're poring through his recently penned book Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington and discovering that it contains many, many crazy ideas. They're looking at creepy photos of him from college. And under this intensified spotlight, Perry has already made some missteps, like calling the chair of the Federal Reserve a traitor.
But here's what Rick Perry hasn't done since announcing his presidential campaign: sat down for an interview with a journalist. He has answered a question or two here and there from a reporter at an event where he's talking to voters, but he hasn't gone on a Sunday show, or been interviewed by a print reporter, or even done an interview with a friendly Fox correspondent. When you do that, you're subjected to the dreaded "follow-up question," which can be a real problem for someone whose ideas are both controversial and superficially held (for instance, the Perry campaign is now distancing him from the ideas in his book, including his assertion that Social Security is an unconstitutional Ponzi scheme and his proposal to repeal the 16th Amendment, which provides for an income tax).
But eventually, Perry will have to do an interview or two. The reporter will prepare some tough questions. And, I predict, it won't go well for Perry.