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The Perry-Newt Nexus

I don't have much in the way of a grand valedictory for Rick Perry as he returns to Austin to prepare for Texas' coming war with Turkey. I already penned (Romney word!) my Perry farewell out in Iowa, when the aura of defeat was all over him.

But I will offer a thought on Perry's decision to throw his parting endorsement Newt Gingrich's way. This might seem surprising to some on one level -- after all, isn't Perry the anti-Washington, states' rights, small-government guy, who ran ads attacking Newt as a consummate Washington insider with big government flirtations like Freddie Mac and the health insurance mandate?

Yes, but. Looking at Perry in this way -- through an ideological lens -- is the common misperception that I tried to correct for in my September cover story on the great man. For all his prayer summits and declarations about secession, Rick Perry is at heart not a true ideologue. He is an operator, who has been motivated above all, as I put it in the piece, by "the business of politics: ladder-climbing, deal-making, campaigning, and, most of all, winning." It is precisely because he is not a true ideologue that he is so deeply inarticulate and lost in debates -- if he were a true believer, he'd be ready to rattle away, as Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann do. But he's not; he'd rather be back in his office with his boots up on the desk, cutting a deal and making jokes.

And who's the other operator left in the field? Gingrich. They run different rackets -- Perry's Texas one is all about highway contractors and biotech subsidies and oil-and-gas ventures, whereas Newt's Beltway one has revolved more around housing and health care. But true operators know a kindred spirit when they see one.