The conventional wisdom has coalesced around the view that Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with his sizable bankroll, is the obvious choice to emerge again as Romney's chief primary challenger. His campaign is now up with ads in New Hampshire and Iowa, reintroducing himself to the voters. And businessman Herman Cain, with the latest scandal, could find himself falling in the next round of polls.
But I'm not so sure that, even with the Texas governor's significant resources, his rebranding campaign will work. Perry's collapse since entering the race really has been remarkable. Unlike other recent candidates who entered the race with high expectations only to fall flat (Fred Thompson, Wesley Clark, Rudy Giuliani), Perry boasted executive experience, a largely conservative record, and success in some hotly-contested gubernatorial campaigns. On paper, he had that resume that translates to a presidential campaign. That's why many Republican voters initially viewed him so favorably, thinking he was the most electable conservative in the race.
But he was utterly unprepared to make the transition to the national stage, alienating the establishment with his weak debate performance and infuriating the base on illegal immigration. The Republican chattering class now is convinced he doesn't have what it takes to defeat a vulnerable President Obama, and the base is awfully skeptical that he's the principled conservative they once thought. That's hard to turn around with a bunch of 30-second ads.