There was a method to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's metaphor when he compared himself to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow during last night's Republican presidential debate.
On one level, it was a good move for Perry to link himself to an increasingly popular sports figure. It was humanizing, and it connected the candidate to pop culture. Tebow, despite harsh criticism of his abilities and playing style, is a compelling individual who has led his team to wins in seven out of eight games he's started this season, including a series of dramatic last-minute victories.
The fundamental political point, however, is that Tebow is a devout Christian who is very public about his religious commitment, as is Perry. Conservative Christian voters are a powerful force in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest of the 2012 cycle with its caucuses on January 3. So Perry's gambit in the debate can be seen as an appeal to this key constituency.
"There are a lot of folks that said Tim Tebow wasn't going to be a very good NFL quarterback," Perry said. "There are people that stood up and said, well, he doesn't have the right throwing mechanism, or he's not playing the game right. And he won two national championships [in college], and that looked pretty good. We were the national champions in job creation back in Texas. And so am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you, I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses."