The end of the beginning?
I think Perry’s play to seize the Birther territory is interesting but unsurprising. Fact is that Birthers represent a pretty large segment of the GOP primary electorate, and there was nobody left in the campaign to speak for their beliefs. Trump was a pretty unworthy candidate, since he was clearly such a huge flake. Currently Herman Cain is flying high as the conservative movement wunderkind, but I think this is obviously a bubble (cf. Trump, Bachmann) – his campaign is disorganized/nonexistent, he seems mainly interested in selling books, and he doesn’t know his electorate well enough to make all the right noises on, for example, abortion. On the other hand, Perry’s fundamentals are strong.
Most importantly, the conservative fringe needs a candidate! Conservatives have spent the last three years peddling bull about the socialist Kenyan sharia-lover who’s coming to take away your guns, Bibles, and Big Macs. Shockingly, now a lot of dedicated conservatives believe this – and just as importantly for low-turnout primary elections, they all vote. Both Trump and Bachmann filled the void of nonsense peddlers, but neither were particularly credible candidates. Perry has fund-raising ability, strong credentials, and the right background for a Republican President (white/male/Texan).
It was a notable void that in the last month or so as Romney has come to seem the inevitable nominee, nobody was really stepping up as the totally insane right-wing candidate. Maybe the time has finally come for Romney and the fringe to fight their battle royale.