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How Do We Actually Know Rick Perry is Electable?

One of the reasons that Rick Perry's already considered a Big Dog in the Republican presidential field is that it is widely assumed he would be a strong general election candidate who also pleases a very demanding GOP "base" (you know, sort of like a certain other Texas governor back in 2000).

Nate Silver takes a closer look at the evidence about Perry's electibility, and comes away a bit skeptical.

He notes Perry's poor performance in general election trial heats against Barack Obama, but suggests that could be just a matter of relatively low national name recognition. He then looks at Perry's electoral record in Texas, and isn't that impressed:

Over all, Mr. Perry has won his three elected terms with an average victory margin of 13 percentage points. That's certainly not a disaster, but it lags the 19-point margin for other Texas Republicans running in those years. In the most recent two elections, Mr. Perry was losing quite a few voters who were voting for Republican for almost every other office.

What I'd add to Nate's analysis is that Perry's popularity--or the lack thereof--is germane not just to a measurement of Perry's political skills, but to his message as a presidential candidate. After all, what makes him attractive to Republican elites is that he can supposedly claim a job-creation record so powerful that it has made Texas the exception to the rule in Obama's America--a virtual free-market Eden where people are flocking in search of the opportunity they are denied in places that have terrible things like unions, environmental regulations, and publicly-sponsored health care coverage.

If any of that is true, why is Rick Perry consistently less popular than your average Texas Republican? It's a very good question.