One of the early buzzwords of the Republican primary race was “authenticity.” It has since faded a bit, but it might be worth reexamining as Rick Perry enters the race.
A clear definition of authenticity is never supplied, but (as with Potter Stewart and obscenity), we purport to know it when we see it. And it was, for many GOP voters, noticeably absent in the case of Mitt Romney. But Tim Pawlenty had his own struggles with authenticity, as he seemed to become increasingly uncomfortable in his own skin. Michele Bachmann’s popularity was partially explained by her authenticity–the genuine nature of her beliefs both heartened her supporters and frightened her opponents. But Perry’s interview with Mark Halperin, published this morning, reveals above all else a confident and comfortable candidate:
Does any aspect of running for president intimidate you?
Does any aspect of it excite you or enthuse you?
Yeah, I’m kind of getting to the haul-in point and the idea that, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I mean, this is starting to get to that comfort level and I’ve got the calmness in my heart. I think that was a bit of a hurdle initially but I’m very calm in my heart that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.
Halperin has the video up of the relevant exchange, and I encourage readers to watch it. Perry’s comment, “I’ve got the calmness in my heart,” is said with obvious sincerity. His answers may not be too revealing, but his delivery is–loose, poised, and prepared but unrehearsed. It’s a stark contrast with Romney, who has changed his appearance and approach since the last campaign, and with Bachmann, who seems to have a narrower comfort zone. Pawlenty seems to be finding his voice, though it may be too late.
Romney is, however, more relaxed this time around and seems more in his element. He and Perry will be making similar arguments on job growth and their experience as governors. But although Perry’s Texas charm may be grating to his antagonists, he shows some charisma in the Halperin interview. Whether he can demonstrate that on the campaign trail and retain it through the rigors of the primary season remains to be seen. If he can, he may have found an effective way to distinguish himself from candidates with whom he may see eye-to-eye on the issues.