Rick Perry was always the 19th hole candidate.
Some campaigns are born from years of planning and plotting. Then there are the campaigns that arise from the men's grille at the Foghorn Leghorn Country Club when some hotsy-tot pipes up, rolls around the ice cubes in his bourbon and branch and says: "You know what, governor? You have a finely cut jib. You ought to run for president."
And before you knew it, there was the Texas governor parachuting into Iowa, munching on a corn dog and trying to remember how many justices serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Perhaps Perry thought the sheer force of his Texas bravado would propel him to the Republican nomination. Instead, the personality the voters discovered was Li'l Abner, only without the intellectual curiosity.
There is a hitch to running for president. Candidates have the pressing obligation to demonstrate a modicum of awareness at least marginally above a sack of anchovies. The tea party crowd dominating the GOP certainly doesn't mind if a candidate is more bonkers than Edgar Allen Poe. But they do draw line at being so obvious about it.
Perry didn't run a presidential campaign. He ran as the poster child for civics illiteracy in America, and by the time he quit the race Thursday he had made the George W. Bush years look like the Age of Enlightenment. This was too much even for the voters of South Carolina.
It would seem the obvious beneficiary of Perry's departure from the race will be Newt Gingrich, to whom the governor threw his 6 percentage points in the polls.
To be sure, in what promises to be a tight South Carolina primary election on Saturday, those six points might have some value. That could lead to a possible appointment as ambassador to the South Pole for Perry (if he can find it on a map), in the unlikely event that Gingrich actually gets elected.
The bump in fortunes for the former House speaker could be short-lived in the wake of an ABC News Nightline interview with the second Mrs. Gingrich. She claimed naughty Newt pressed her to agree to have an "open marriage," in which he could lug her around for public political purposes and keep a mistress on the side.
Memo to Newt Gingrich, the Pepe Le Pew of the Potomac: It is probably not too late to enter the French presidential election. Perhaps Dominique Strauss-Kahn can be your campaign manager.
In a backhanded way, the last day or so could be good news for Mitt Romney, who has gotten a brief respite from having to explain why his predatory venture capital company made the Visigoth sacking of Rome look like urban renewal. All of the attention has flipped to Perry's Sad Sack withdrawal and new revelations about Gingrich's politics of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
Things were looking pretty good for Romney heading into South Carolina with Florida coming up next.
But then knee-capping negative advertising disclosures began to dribble out from super PACs like "Americans for Liberty and, Oh, By the Way, Open Marriage Too,'' suggesting if you were out of work in South Carolina, the former Massachusetts governor probably signed your pink slip with a hearty "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"
It was bad enough Romney had to fend off robber baron accusations that he made J.P. Morgan look like St. Augustine. Then the candidate demonstrated that he understands the economic struggles of middle class Americans about as well as the Sultan of Brunei.
Romney blithely dismissed the fees he was paid for speaking engagements over the past year as "not very much." Perhaps when you have a net worth estimated around $250 million, give or take an estate or two, the $374,327 Romney was paid to give a few speeches is spare change found in the couch cushion.
But in South Carolina, where the median income is about $28,000 a year, pulling in almost $400,000 to deliver some speeches to fancy-pants corporate gatherings hardly seems like "not very much."
Romney, his "let them eat cake" attitude notwithstanding, may well go on to win the nomination and perhaps even the presidency. But if he doesn't, he'll have only his own disconnection with reality and the everyday lives of Americans to blame.
Well, there's always the speaker's circuit. It only pays a lousy, stinking $374,327. In these tough economic times, it would have to do.