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Tea party -- Perry gets it, Romney doesn't

By James C. Moore, Special to CNN
updated 10:44 AM EDT, Wed August 31, 2011
Mitt Romney arrives for a business roundtable to discuss the economy during a campaign stop in Pella, Iowa.
Mitt Romney arrives for a business roundtable to discuss the economy during a campaign stop in Pella, Iowa.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • James Moore: Mitt Romney thinks he can win on jobs and the economy
  • He says Romney first has to convince voters who care about social issues
  • Rick Perry's stances win him support of evangelicals, tea partiers, Moore says
  • Moore: Romney statements on gays, climate, abortion don't fly with GOP primary voters

Editor's note: Editor's note: James C. Moore is a Texas-based Emmy award-winning former national TV news correspondent and co-author of the best-seller "Bush's Brain."

Austin, Texas (CNN) -- Mitt Romney thinks he can run on the issue of jobs and the economy. And he can. But not in the primary. Romney has an unnatural belief that logic and considered judgments will give him the Republican presidential nomination. No, seriously, he thinks that's the way it works. He is constantly explaining how his experience as a businessman gives him the skills needed to rebuild the economy.

Why is he talking such nonsense? Doesn't Romney realize he is running in the GOP primary? The voters he needs to move in his direction don't want to hear about jobs. Jesus is on their minds. And unborn babies. And those scary gay and lesbian people who have "chosen" to live an alternative lifestyle right here in America. (Every time homosexuals hold hands, another crack forms in the foundation of heterosexual marriage.) As handsome as Mitt Romney is, however, these voters have already met their dreamboat.

Rick Perry is their perfect date.

Primaries, especially Republican primaries, belong to activists. They tend to be angry about the treatment of fetuses (living babies appear less of a concern) and God not getting credit for her (wrong gender?) clever way of creating the earth to make it look billions of years older than the actual age of 6,500. Global warming is a smart liberal trick (though they won't admit there are any smart liberals), and gay marriage is an insidious scheme to destroy the American family. They also want giant insurance corporations to decide who gets health care and Jesus to tuck us all in every night. They are so determined that these things be addressed that they will overwhelm the sanity and turnout of more moderate GOP voters.

These are Rick Perry's people, not Mitt Romney's.

Romney is spending too much of his time explaining himself to people he doesn't really like and, in politics, when you are explaining, you are losing (or to use the Texas vernacular, "When ur explainin', ur losin'.") He constantly has to parse differences between the Massachusetts health care plan he developed and President Obama's plan, which might make a fun happy hour for policy wonks on Capitol Hill, but requires too much arduous thinking for tea partiers.

Romney expressed opposition to gay marriage in 2008 and during this presidential run, but in a race against the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, he promised to be an even greater advocate for gay rights than the senator. Oops. On global warming, he kinda sorta thinks it's happening since the ice caps are melting, but he doesn't know for sure if humans are contributing or are the main cause, which is the political equivalent of, "I said maybe. And that's final."

The abortion question is even more vexing for Romney. The former governor is the only one of the leading Republican candidates who has refused to sign the Susan B. Anthony List pledge to end funding for Planned Parenthood and any health care facility that provides abortions. Romney said the restrictions would shut down thousands of hospitals across the country, and he could not in good conscience sign the pledge. A candidate simply cannot make this much sense and still win the Republican primary.

Rick Perry is too cool to drool, but he has to be licking his chops. Romney is in the exact wrong place for the tea party, and its members are dominating the GOP primary process.

Perry is as dreamy as the prom king to Christian conservatives and evangelicals, too. They are having naughty, naughty thoughts about the Texas governor. He's just too perfect. He thinks evolution is a theory and that Jesus ought to be a teaching assistant in every American classroom.

The fact that he believes abortion and gay marriage need to be banned by the U.S. Constitution and Social Security is a Ponzi scheme makes Perry a sexy version of Ron Paul to the righties.

A bunch of them are probably scared because they are experiencing what they consider a disturbing same gender attraction to Tex. Even the Texas Republican Party platform for 2010 has turned into a love potion for Perry and the far right because it wants to criminalize gay marriage and make it a felony for any state official to perform a ceremony. Ah, love.

And, psst, listen up. Can you believe it? He's not a Mormon, either. Rick Perry believes the older version of the Jesus story. Heck, when you check into a hotel anywhere in the South there are still Gideon Bibles in the top drawer of the night stand; it's not the book of Mormon, unless maybe you are visiting Utah. How much more proof does anyone need of his perfection? Bet he's got a cool car, too.

Perry will win the Iowa caucuses easily because Michele Bachmann will be running out of money and will have scared the party leadership. In New Hampshire, he will at least finish close to Romney, and in South Carolina he will affirm his run by winning the delegates necessary to seal up the nomination.

Perry will take South Carolina by a margin wider than his credibility gap. Romney has the money and the infrastructure (and faltering judgment) to hang tough until Super Tuesday on March 6, but Perry will easily pocket wins in Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Tennessee. With the nomination wrapped up, Perry will then start talking about jobs and the economy instead of Jesus.

And Obama will need to have a few prayers of his own answered to keep his job.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James Moore.

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