Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the presidential candidate whom every single political junkie in America is rapidly learning about, has won ten straight elections in Texas since 1984. And do his vanquished foes ever have some stories! Oh, the stories that they have.
The essential Texas Monthly has interviewed most of the candidates Perry beat in elections past, all of whom still sound stunned and scarred, as if they'd just yesterday been probed by deep space death aliens.
In 1990, Perry was facing incumbent Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower. This was when he and Karl Rove were still quite chummy, and, according to Hightower, Perry hadn't yet developed his estimable political skills. So here's how Rove went about shivving Hightower that year:
Rove got frustrated with him and sent him out to West Texas to attend Farm Bureau county meetings while Rove raised, I think it was about $3 million, and threw it into TV ads against me. They ran ads of me endorsing Jesse Jackson-ran that in East Texas. One ad showed a hippie setting a flag on fire and throwing it on the ground, and my picture came up out of the flames. So I had supporters in Dallas and Houston and East Texas who said, "Well, I liked ol' Hightower but I didn't know he burned flags."
There was a debate on Channel 13 in Dallas. Just the usual stuff. He tried to use some of the Rove negative things, including the flag-burning stuff, I think. Off the cuff, he was nondescript. He hadn't really developed any political chops at the time. Obviously he has since. I think he's a good campaigner. I think that's the one thing he actually does well, as opposed to actually governing or having actual ideas or principles.
Indeed, he did become a good campaigner in his own right by 1998 — by developing magical powers! His lieutenant governor opponent that year, John Sharp, recounts how Perry used his magic for evil that year:
Running against Perry is like running against God. Everything breaks his way! Either he's the luckiest guy in the world or the Lord is taking care of him. [...]
He's a relentless campaigner. I was up at five every morning just to match his schedule. Our money was about even, until an extra million dollars miraculously came to him at the last minute. Two weeks before the election, the largest flood of the century hit the Eighteenth District, which I'd represented in the state Senate. The flood inundated towns all along the Guadalupe River, with massive flooding in Gonzales, Cuero, and Victoria, my hometown. No one thinks about voting when their house is flooded. I received 70 percent of the vote there, but, of course, it was a record-low turnout. It's hard to get out the vote from a boat. I don't know if God is calling Rick Perry to run for president, but if he runs, the other candidates are going to need a big dose of magic and a lot of shoe leather.
By 2010, Perry had transformed from a good campaigner with magical powers to a good campaigner with magical powers and fake black Twitter friends. Here's Bill White, Perry's foe in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign:
There were also some silly things that happened that are still hard to believe. One consulting firm of his created artificial people to tweet. [The campaign] wanted to question my support in the African American community, but they couldn't recruit an African American person to do it, so on Twitter they used a stock photo of a black person. One of the people who supported my campaign clicked on the image and found out it was a singer from Atlanta. The Twitter address was registered at the same location as one of Mr. Perry's political consultants.
[Image via AP]