At the beginning of August, I made a bet with a labmate of mine. I said that Rick Perry would win the Republican presidential nomination. The terms were that if I won, my labmate owed me lunch, and if anyone other than Rick Perry won, I would owe him lunch. This is called a “field bet,” and it was a mistake. I should have made him pick someone in particular, as opposed to anyone other than Perry. Alternatively, I could have weighed the stakes differently, so that I owed him a lunch if I lost, but he would owe me, say, 3 lunches if I won.
But I didn’t do either of those, and the reason is that I was feeling very confident. Rick Perry had the swagger and alpha male patriarchal gravitas that Republican voters craved, I thought. He’d sign off on executing innocent people in Texas and not give a fuck. He’d lead with his gut, and not listen to a bunch of egghead “experts.” He was a tough talkin’ Texan, unafraid to display his strong religious faith and wage a cultural war against gays, or the nonreligious, or anyone else that seemed acceptable to pick on:
And at first, it seemed like I made a smart bet. Below is the polling for the GOP nomination, and Perry is in blue:
Almost immediately after I made the bet, he sailed right past Romney! Things looked good. But then a funny thing happened. I hadn’t counted on a few key facts. Namely, Rick Perry was too stupid to talk. I had never listened to him before, but I assumed that because he had won all 10 of his previous electoral contests, he presumably had this basic skill more or less covered. I was wrong. In debate after debate, he showed this very clearly:
And as you all know by now, his support tanked and it never came back. The more conservative base of the GOP that didn’t want Romney moved on to other possibilities: Cain, then Gingrich, then Santorum. As Stendhal explained, this more or less guaranteed that Romney would remain the frontrunner.
Today, the news broke that Rick Perry will drop out of the race and throw his support to Gingrich. Who knows, Gingrich may even win South Carolina and build off that win to challenge Romney. But either way, the bet is over and I bought my labmate lunch. But let me just say, I’ve never been so happy to have lost a bet. Of all the GOP nominees, Perry is the one I disliked the most. His cruelty, ignorance, callousness, and stupidity were an awful and dangerous mixture. In the end, I made the best kind of bet: the kind you win either way. I would gladly buy a lunch if it meant that this awful man would never be president.