Dumbed down, God-invoking, gun-slinging, constitution cutting, anti women, retro Republican Rick Perry is causing Mitt Romney severe distress. He’s not doing much for Democrats and progressives either.

But what sets Perry apart and earns him his niche in the far right corner of Mount Rushmore has nothing to do with the gyrations of the 2012 campaign. Indeed, Perry is not only a presidential candidate, but also a cowboy-booted sociological experiment. It is almost as if Perry’s political persona was constructed by bundling together all the fears and phantoms in the left-wing anxiety closet. Since the hysteria of the 1950s Red Scare, no Republican figure has matched Perry in his God-given ability to give liberals the heebie-jeebies. Others can rival the governor’s disdain for academic achievement (Palin), his cross-on-the-sleeve religiosity (Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee), and his antipathy to Social Security and Medicare (Paul Ryan and Barry Goldwater). But never before has a top-tier presidential candidate embodied the whole lethal package”“and more… – Rick Perry: The God-Fearing, Know-Nothing, Pistol-Packing Embodiment of Liberals’ Worst Nightmares, by Walter Shapiro

Nobody’s convinced me yet that Mr. Perry, who is the right-wing primary voters’ dream candidate, can beat Pres. Obama, but I’m still listening. In the current field, Mitt Romney’s remains the best bet, but just maybe Republicans are too ideologically off the cliff to pay attention to what general election voters will buy. Does anyone believe Perry can pass the wider American voter’s smell test?

Perry also has the distinction, if you ask me, of being the last gasp of this type of candidate, because looking forward another Republican is emerging.

Marco Rubio. But why?

What does Rubio want to do? Nothing very specific, insofar as I can tell. He’s young, so there’s time yet for him to do better. But evaluating him based on this speech, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. – Is Marco Rubio the Future of the Republican Party?

If Sen. Rubio wasn’t Hispanic would we be talking about him?

You could ask the same question of the GOP women Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, with pasty white men no longer the only game in America, though in the Republican Party women are still second class to any male, no matter the ethnic distinction.

And let’s remember, if it weren’t for the Hillary effect, Sarah Palin would never have left Alaska.

However, for Mr. Rubio and the Republican Party, being Hispanic matters, because Republicans have an abysmal record on minorities, something this young politician could change in one run for president, which is where his sights are set.

But what if Romney or Perry would ask Sen. Rubio to run as vice president? It seems clear that’s not where he wants to be, but if called to serve in a year where Pres. Obama is beatable can he afford to refuse? Bad political blood rarely goes away. Just ask Mitt Romney.

UPDATE: Let me just add that the reason I’ve paired Rubio in this post with two contenders is that he makes the GOP ticket a lot more palatable, especially if Republicans go Tea Party crazy and nominate Perry. I don’t see a way for Perry to win the general at this point, though Rubio on the ticket would go a long way to helping Perry make him plausibly viable.