This ad, released by the Rick Perry campaign yesterday, hits so many offensive buttons (promising to end “Obama’s war on religion,” lamenting the fact that gays can serve openly in the military) that you almost wonder if its offensiveness is deliberate, designed to get much more free publicity for the ad than he’d get with something more measured. Well, mission accomplished, I guess; everyone’s going to be talking about it. But it really is an awful combination of persecution complex with a fervent dislike of everyone else in the world. I don’t even know that it will be that effective: an effective nasty ad is one that has the illusion of niceness. This ad doesn’t. It’s just nasty.
Perry has been one of the surprises of the U.S. primary cycle, since he really should have had everything going for him. The argument for his entry into the race was persuasive: he was an across-the-board conservative, he ran a state that saw some growth in jobs (not to say he “created” the jobs himself, just that it helps to preside over positive job growth at a time when jobs are the big issue) and unlike Romney and Gingrich, he’s currently holding down an important elected office, rather than running on the strength of a job he held years ago. But he’s just proved that people who don’t enter the race early, who have to be dragged into it or who choose to enter because there aren’t that many good candidates, tend to have serious weaknesses, or they campaign as if their heart isn’t really in it. Or, as in this case, they release unpleasant TV ads.