It's All About Stopping the Outsiders
Because of citizen outrage at the way the insiders have looted the country, two legitimate outsiders are gaining traction. The insiders will go to extreme measures to prevent either of these two people from ever becoming President of the United States. They are Michelle Bachman and Ron Paul. Much of what is happening in this campaign that is otherwise inexplicable is explained by this fact.
Mitt Romney is the man that the establishment wants to be the Republican nominee. The grassroots mostly know that Romney is not their guy. The establishment is using various stratigies to impose him on us anyway.
One of the most common techniques they will use in a primary to stop outsiders is "bracketing." That is, they will run another candidate(s) (a shadow) that is liable to sap votes from the outsider to prevent them from getting traction. The other candidate is usually not even trying to get elected to the office they are running for, but has been promised some other reward (such as a cabinet position).
What follows is speculation, but is my explanation for some otherwise hard to explain moves. See if you think it fits....
Tim Pawlenty is in this to shadow Michelle Bachman. He is from the same state, so he splits her geographic base. He is also investing the highest proportion of his resources in Iowa, where she hopes for a springboard (she does not have the monetary staying-power of Romney, so she has to do well early). He is also attacking her even when it hurts him more than it does her. His suicidal attacks in the debate last night only make sense if he is in the race to stop Bachman more than elect Pawlenty.
Rick Santorum is in this to shadow Ron Paul. Paul was born in Pennslyvania, grew up there, and went to college there. He has deep roots in the state. Santorum has an even weaker hand than Pawlenty. He is not in this to win the nomination for President. Much like when Santorum sold out the conservatives to endorse Arlen Spector (who then switched to Democrat) over Pat Toomey, Santorum has made a deal with the establishment to keep Paul from winning big in PA. He also tried to dog Paul in the debate last night, but with little success.
Ron Paul was also leading in polls of the massive GOP state of Texas, even over Perry. When you look at where Paul could win, Texas, Pennslyvania, Kentucky, and many western states, it represented a serious threat. A nightmare scenario for the establishment would be for Bachman to win some of the midwest and much of the south, Paul to win the areas listed for him, and Romney only winning in the northeast and Mormon country. That equals a brokered convention with outsiders in the drivers seat.
I think they saw this scenario coming and decided to tap Rick Perry as the faux-outsider who can cover the south including Texas for them. While Perry is a terrible match up against Obama- Southern conservatives tend to like him but his crossover appeal in the rest of the country is practically zilch- he is perfect for the role of shadow for Paul in Texas and for Bachman among much of the rest of the south.
What has he been offered in return? Possibly the VP slot. He could serve the roll of Sarah Palin in 08, appeasing conservatives mad at a moderate nominee for President with someone they consider one of their own as VP.
In this scenario, instead of going into convention with Bachman and Paul holding more total delegates than Romney, they can cut into their delegate totals such that the Romney-Perry axis would have more delegates than a potential outsider alliance. This is why I think that a vote for Rick Perry is a vote for Mitt Romney. Those who don't believe Perry would get behind the liberal Romney should consider that Rick Perry endorsed Rudy Guiliani in 2008.