In the end, that did him in, because if he had in fact followed much of what Rollins wanted him to do and didn't spend $62 million but over $100 million -- which it would have required if he hadn't dropped out -- he could have run a much more rigorous, but not winning, challenge to the other parties. If you're building a base, your'e not going to do it that way.
If there comes a time when another third-party candidate comes in who has not just the whimsical approach of the libertarians who says "It's bad government up there now, how about we go with no government at all?" and actually thinks he can do much better by coming from the outside and shaking the hell out of it, you don't need a base. Because that's a movement ... and that's what it was with Perot in 1992, it becomes this movement, this train, this juggernaut that comes very fast and has this passion about it.
The question is, can you hold on for the few months of attempts to destroy your reputation and make you no longer the innovative outsider, but just another one of the flawed individuals running for office? Unfortunately, that's what it's about.
Perot really never had the chance to take that beating. Much of his campaign damage seemed to be self-inflicted. What did that say about Perot and what warning does it offer to those currently seeking the nation's highest office?
The thing that made him so strong was that he was so remarkably independent and strong-willed, but it was also his Achilles heel, because he couldn't take advice in the end.
He was very, very prickly, as many CEOs are. Heads of companies are used to running these mini empires with everyone taking their direction, but when they go into public life and there are people questioning whether they are right or wrong, there's a compromise or debate about it. You can no longer give an order or directive. People who are built for the CEO world are often not built for the political world, and that was certainly the case with Perot. He was much too prickly to real criticism.
When Russert challenged him on his deficit numbers, some of which were in fact wrong, instead of saying "I see what you mean by that" he fought him time and time again and gave him grist for the mill. In Perot's case, his unraveling was that the parties -- especially the Republicans in Texas -- realized what his weak areas were personality-wise, and they played to that. They put the bait in front of him and he self-destructed. He got out of the race and came back in and they played him like a fiddle. He had nobody to blame but himself.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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