Rick Perry is one scary dude! What he says is bad enough. How he says it is even worse. He has all the body language and facial expressions and intonations of an angry, explosive man. Except for Southern Bible-Belters raised on this style of speaker, most Americans don't like angry "hot" candidates.
But Perry is a fantastic fit for folk accustomed to the hellfire preacher style. In Ames, Iowa, he did a move which was right out of the preacher hellfire playbook that goes back to an evangelical named Billy Sunday. A pioneer of the newly created mass media of radio and newsreel, Sunday packed the huge revival tents of the 1920s and '30s and even filled the LA Coliseum. That's 100,000 people! He was the forerunner of all the money-making "preachers" on today's so-called Christian radio and TV.
So, what is the move Billy and the hellfire Bible-thumpers make? It's a crouching tiger! Just as Perry did on the platform in Ames, the speaker crouches about halfway down with knees bent and then springs up forcefully with a roar: "I may be late getting into this race. But when I get in (crouch), I get ALL the way in!" The spring upward came on the roaring "ALL" It was classic! It was - dare I say it? - exciting.
Crowds like excitement, but voters don't like excitement expressed by angry men. Angry men are scary. A tremendous Southern crowd-pleaser was angry-hellfire ol' Huey Long. He scared pretty near everybody outside of Louisiana where he was governor. He even scared FDR, who was struggling to keep a lid on Depression era fear, panic and mob-mentality. FDR also saw Long as a potential competitor - and a tough one - for the presidency.
But someone shot Huey Long dead. And someone shot George Wallace, that 1968 angry racist and crowd-panderer. He who rides a tiger can get eaten.
If the GOP nominates Perry, thoughtful voters will, of course, flee him. Even some of those who like his slogans may have trouble when they think about an angry man answering that 3 a.m. phone call in the White House. An angry man with his hand on the nuclear trigger?
But even if they don't think about these nightmare things, they may be viscerally repulsed by the cocka-doodle-doo-doo of the Old West macho cowboy who flings open the saloon door and swaggers in with his hand hovering above his holster. The image works great in the old movies, but not with political TV.
TV is a "cool" medium. It's kind to the forcefully cool (JFK punching a finger for emphasis), but it's hell on menacing blowhards.
So that leaves the GOP with a blowhard Perry and a blow-dried Romney. Meanwhile, the Democrats have the ultimate Mr. Cool himself in Barack Obama. And Obama can stare down any tiger. After all, he's the guy who - quietly - potted Bin Laden!