Gov. Rick Perry says he wants to be the "Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses," but the Texas governor's verbal gaffes and well-documented memory lapses have given YouTube a different kind of highlight reel. One of Mr. Perry's recent video ads is also helping to cement his status as a YouTube sensation.
The video, "Strong," seems engineered to provoke liberals. Dressed in cowboy clothes, minus the hat, Mr. Perry proclaims he's not ashamed to be a Christian and that there's something wrong with a country where gay people can serve openly in the military but children can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. The video has racked up 7.1 million views in the past week, and half of those were driven by spoofs, parodies and responses like one done by the Second City Network, where a faux Perry and self-proclaimed atheist says to "leave the governing to sodomites and infidels."
Catering to Iowa's conservative voters is every Republican's strategy at this stage and clearly where the Mr. Perry sees weakness in his peers. Mike Huckabee ran away with the state in the 2008 caucus, and while Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are still at the top of the polls, their credibility with the base is shaky, to say the least.
"Strong" isn't Mr. Perry's first viral hit of the campaign. In September, a high-production-value spot titled "Proven Leadership," which takes fierce swipes at President Barack Obama and resembles a movie trailer in its slick editing and tone, broke the top 10.
Gov. Perry's team is undeniably crafty about its YouTube presence and has shown a willingness to invest in it. But YouTube has been a double-edged sword for the Texas governor. In a November debate, news outlets posted footage of his struggle to remember the third federal agency he would cut as president, and the slip went viral on social media the next day.
"Strong" has 13.2 million total views -- blowing away the other viral videos of this presidential campaign cycle. No. 2, with 3.3 million views, is the spot for Herman Cain in which his campaign manager takes a drag off a cigarette.