What if Rick Perry had never said, "Oops"? What if he could have, for Christ's sake, just remembered that he had wanted to gut the Department of Energy? What if he hadn't climbed into a tan coat and Brett Favre jeans and released that abominable Youtube video -- you know, the gay one.
In other words, what if Rick Perry hadn't been Rick Perry? If Rick Perry wasn't Rick Perry, then Rick Perry would have been a pretty strong Republican presidential nominee. Way stronger than Mitt Romney.
Here's why: Texas -- and Houston in particular -- is dominating right now. Americans at their core care about few things. The economy, jobs and the housing market. It's that simple. They don't want to lose their jobs, or their home's price to dissolve into the mist.
And if that's the barometer, Perry would have had some staggering statistics to brandish. Texas added 12,500 non-farm jobs in May, the Texas Workforce Commission reported last week. It was the 22nd straight month of growth. What's more, the state has added nearly 290,000 private sector jobs. This, while the U.S. unemployment rate languishes at 8.2 percent. Texas's rate, meanwhile, hovers in the mid-6s.
Consider next: Houston's housing market. In May, nearly 6,200 houses were sold in Houston, an arresting 24 percent increase over May of last year. What's more, as people flood the city to gobble up those private-sector jobs, these homes are going for 7.1 percent higher than they did at this time last year.
Then there's Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts. Though he lowered unemployment in his state from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent during his tenure, this was during a very different epoch in our national narrative, when the American dream seemed more contract than myth, a time of revolving credit and dreams of bigger homes and nicer cars. Yes, his state's unemployment dropped, but it still ranked 47th in the nation in terms of job creation.
So what does all that mean? It means that Perry -- for all his failings -- is in possession of one formidable record of enabling job growth during a time of malaise and tepid economic recovery.
It also means: Thank Allah Rick Perry is Rick Perry. And he's not in this race.