The two factors
At dinner the other night, a friend asked me why so many people hate Rick Perry. For background, my friend doesn't follow Texas politics that closely, and would self-describe as quite liberal. Most of the friends that we share would self-describe similarly.
But, my friend said, before voting, he/she looked up Perry's record and was surprised to find it much less objectionable than expected. In fact, even if he/she disagreed, he/she felt like Perry had a pretty reasonable record. So why did so many people seem to viscerally oppose the guy?
Why indeed? I kept my answer as simple as possible -- two elements, that happen to work together.
1. The Austin press corps doesn't like Perry.
2. As Guv, Perry doesn't seem to care much about symbolism.
As to the first point, the Austin press corps doesn't like Perry much, and Perry seems to return the favor. I don't wish to belabor this point, because it's not really something that can be proved. However, I think if you were to survey the press corps and ask them, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you feel that your colleagues in the press feel about Gov. Perry's job performance?" then you would come up with a clear answer.
As to symbolism, I think the Ted Nugent brouhaha makes my point well. Governor Perry seems quite content to just hope the story blows over. He didn't say anything, allegedly his friend said something during the concert, but he's not going to call his friend a racist just because he wore a shirt of the Confederate flag. My guess is he feels something like this: while many who wear Confederate flags are racists, it doesn't make it always so.
But to people offended by Nugent's shirt/Nugent's alleged words, it's a huge deal. So, they're doing their absolute best to keep the story alive, even though Perry is doing his best to let it die. And, because the press doesn't like Perry too much, they're more than willing to cover it: It's an easy story! It's political war! Perry's not being politically correct!
And so, this story has continued on for something like 10 days. There's probably been more coverage of this story in the state's major metropolitan newspapers than there has been coverage of any particularly substantive issue. This is the sort of thing that filters down to the average voter. They aren't paying attention too closely, but this is the sort of drip, drip, drip that affects the collective consciousness.
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