Ding! Welcome to "Ringside Seat," The American Prospect’s daily guide to Election 2012. Each afternoon we'll send an end-of-the-day compendium of the campaign news you might have missed—but shouldn’t. Please send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In April, Rick Perry traveled to North Texas for a taping of televangelist James Robison’s TV show, Life Today. For six months, starting as soon as he was re-elected Texas governor in November 2010, Perry had been crisscrossing the country to promote his second book, Fed Up!, while testing the presidential waters with potential donors and conservative activists. His visit with Robison, a hellfire-breathing pastor known as “God’s hit man” (for “giving ’em so much hell nobody will ever want to go there”), had the potential to pay serious dividends.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, Pool) Republican presidential candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry, left, points out a member of the audience to Utah Governor Jon Huntsman during a Fox News/Google debate yesterday.
For anyone who's lived -- or, rather, done time -- in Rick Perry's Texas, nothing could be more astonishing than what transpired in Orlando on Thursday night: The governor who has turned his state into an Ayn Rand fantasia with a Wild West theme looked and sounded ... humane. And as a result, thanks to the implacable absurdity of his opposition, he took another improbable step toward resembling an electable candidate for president.
When Rick Perry opened his presidential campaign with a dazzling display of what GOP consultant Alex Castellanos called "mad cowboy disease" -- threatening Ben Bernanke with ugly treatment if he ever ventured into Texas, questioning President Obama's patriotism, denying the global-warming "hoax" -- one of the Texas governor's greatest vulnerabilities as a candidate became immediately obvious: He enjoys nothing more than raising eyebrows (and hackles) with incendiary talk.