Perry's steep learning curve

In his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney has one big disadvantage: his Massachusetts health care program, which looks a lot like Obama's national plan. But he has one big advantage that is probably becoming apparent to Rick Perry: He's done this before. Romney made his mistakes in a losing bid four years ago, and he's learned how to avoid them. 

Perry hasn't. In the last two debates, he's often found himself struggling to explain his policies, such as what he would do about the Social Security system he denounced so categorically in his book, "Fed Up." In fending off attacks from Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum over mandating the HPV vaccine, he may have done himself some good with relatively moderate Republicans. But the charge that he was paying off a company for its campaign contributions probably negated that achievement. 

Romney, by contrast, has managed to challenge Perry without getting pelted from all sides. And he managed to stay out of the HPV fight. All that worked to his benefit. 

Perry's immediate problem is learning how to sell himself to voters on a national scale. He's a savvy politician who seems to think the rest of America pines to be just like Texas and assumes that lines that work in Dalhart will work in Des Moines. Not true. 

Everyone who runs for president has to make the transition from statewide candidate to national one, but Perry's unbroken success back home has given him an inflated sense of his appeal. He's smart enough to learn from the mistakes he's made so far. But Romney is way ahead of him there. 



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