When Barry Goldwater, in accepting the 1964 Republican presidential nomination declared that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice," the conservatism he represented bore scant resemblance to the extremism of 2012 GOP wannabes Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, whose singular talent appears to be really pissing off people about other people.
Bachmann, of course, is a known quantity whose record of nuttiness pretty much rules out her being the nominee, let alone a vice presidential running mate. Perry, however, is something of an unknown quantity so it will take a while for his extremism to percolate through the body politic.
An aspect of that extremism is the way Perry flaunts his personal faith and intermingles it with his duties of Texas governor, and he recently called on the power of prayer to end the drought that has seared much of the state. Perry is a Methodist, a faith that preaches inclusiveness, but he believes that Jesus Christ is the one true savior and has excluded Jews, Muslims and other faiths from prayer-based events.
None of this may prevent Perry from getting the nomination considering the power of the Republican's fundamentalist base and that Mitt Romney, the one-time frontrunner, has been refusing to take presidential-like stands on the issues, most recently his cowardly absence from the debate over the federal budget deficit. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin probably has underplayed her hand -- witness her absence from last night's Iowa debate -- and may find herself out of the race before she is even in.
Perry's trump card, to the extent that he has one, is the economy. He can point to his record of creating jobs in Texas through promoting a business-friendly environment, but most of those jobs are for cheap labor.
Nevertheless, it's hard to see the national economy improving sufficiently when the presidential campaigns kick off in earnest 13 months from now to become a non-issue. But President Obama has a trump card, as well, and that is Perry's extremism, of which religious fundamentalism is the keystone and a huge turn-off for the majority of voters from whom religion is an important part of their lives but don't persistently flaunt their godliness in public.
Regardless of the state of the economy, it is hard to see Perry drawing sufficient Independent support. Besides which, we all know what happened the last time a Texas governor was elected president.