Americans want a President that personifies a certain lifestyle, but they don’t want a President that actually lives that lifestyle.
You want to see Bush clearing brush so it feels like he’s a good hardworking rancher. But you want him to clear brush like for 20 minutes once a year and actually do the hard work of governing the rest of the time.
You want to see Clinton stop by a McDonalds and kiss a baby so it feels like he’s a simple man just working as hard as possible to do good for his family. But you don’t want him to literally eat at McDonalds every day (while kissing babies).
So here’s the Perry problem: he isn’t a personification. He is the real thing. He is a good ol’ Texas boy who went to the school that Texans joke about being the school for people that can’t get into any other school, who got horrible grades at that easy school, who was on the cheer squad instead of any academic clubs, whose idea of a fun weekend is shooting guns, who actually once killed a coyote with a laser sighted pistol while out on a jog, who wins (state) elections by holding as few debates as possible and by using character assaults on his opponents at the few he actually goes to instead of talking in depth about policy ideas and issues, who likes to talk about succession and treason and legitimately seems to think that the federal government is the root of all problems that anyone in the country faces about anything on any given day, and who, as we are beginning to see, has made it as far as he has made it mostly by relying on his looks and vocal tone (and political party/advisors) rather than smarts or intellectual curiosity.
The Perry Problem is that the nation (and moreover Republicans) want a Ronald Reagan in the sense that we want someone that knows how to play a cowboy and awaken that instinct we all have inside to be wild and free and live exciting lives. But the nation doesn’t actually want a cowboy President. They want a fake cowboy that can take the job of being President 200% seriously at the end of the day.
We want a President that we would enjoy having a beer with. But we don’t want to literally drink beer with the President every night. The President should, you know, be on the phone with other heads of state or his/her generals and have the desire and energy to spend 16+ hour long days doing that for every day for four years straight (with a little vacation mixed in, of course).
In Rick Perry, we may have seen the first candidate to truly not understand the distinction between these two sides of the coin.