Romney Braces for Perry Testosterone Challenge; Huntsman Reboots

With August 6 approaching, you can actually hear a muted sense of worry among the Romney press corps as they behold the coming magnitude of the handsome Christian-wooing, Tea Party-flattering governor from Texas: Rick Perry is coming! Rick Perry is coming!

Some recent polls show Perry (who has not even announced yet) eroding Romney’s frontrunner standing, especially among Republican men and Tea Party supporters. Watch out for that masculinity issue. As we’ve discussed here at RD, Mormon men are raised on a different model of manhood—one that’s all about institutional loyalty, duty, and sentimentality, not that head-cowboy-of-the-apocalypse shtick Texas politicians seem to have perfected. Texas pols do, after all, hail from a state where people proudly hang chrome testicles from the rear bumpers of their pick-up trucks.

Can a Texas prayer rally evaporate six years’ of nationwide on-the-ground campaign building? Can Mitt keep his awkward sense of humor in check and hold on to frontrunner status? If Texas Jesus does tell Rick Perry to run on August 6, it’s going to be a long Republican primary death match. Because one thing we know about Mitt: he’s not going to surrender any time soon, and he’s amassing the cash to make it happen. As we like to remember (especially on July 24—Happy Pioneer Day to RD’s Mormon readers!), persistence is a Mormon trait.

Except when it’s not. We’ll see how how far pioneer persistence takes Jon Huntsman Jr., who is off to what might be called a rocky start in his quest for the Republican nomination. Huntsman, despite lining up a few endorsements, has made little statistical progress among New Hampshire voters. He didn’t file a quarterly report with the FEC, but his reported fundraising numbers (about $4 million, with Huntsman reportedly pitching in about half of that himself) suggest that Republican donors haven’t jumped on board the way his campaign might have hoped.

Weeks ago, as his campaign bathed in a luminous media spotlight, Huntsman fancifully compared his chances to catching “lightning in a bottle,” a phrase that sounds like something he fished from the archives of prog-rock-crypto-mysticism. Now, Huntsman is reportedly looking to get more “aggressive” and draw a stronger contrast. Campaign manager Susie Wiles stepped down late last week, and campaign communications director Matt David stepped into her place. The Huntsman team held a closed-door reboot session on Friday. No word yet on what the new, more “aggressive” Huntsman will look like. But if Matt David had a hand in bringing on Fred Davis to develop the crypto-quirky Huntsman-on-a-motorcycle videos the campaign released to introduce the candidate back in June, I’m worried. And my worry is not eased by the fact that no one in the Huntsman campaign communications department has fixed the media glitch we noticed here more than a month ago: the official Huntsman campaign website still does not show up in the first page of Google results from a “Huntsman president 2012” search. (Search engine optimization, people! Seriously!)

Finally, I’m wondering if Jon Huntsman Jr., a Republican moderate who has made a career by strategically blending in, will adapt to this “aggressive” “contrast” business. Sad to say it, but I’d look for the former governor to schedule a nice, long motorcycle ride across the red rock deserts of southern Utah right after the Florida primaries.