From The Hill’s “Pundits Blog” today comes this effort in unsubstantiated and unrestrained speculation about why Rick Perry decided to stay in the race and go to South Carolina, by columnist Brent Budowsky, who has never been an admirer of Rick Perry. If Rick Perry was a legitimate conservative (which I always warned he was not) he would have dropped out of the campaign today and endorsed Rick Santorum, Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich. Yet Pay-for-Play Perry stays in, and heads for South Carolina. So what’s the deal? The big winner of Perry staying in, by far, is Mitt Romney. The big loser is the conservative movement and the candidates who appeal to that movement. Keeping in mind my long-held view that Perry is not conservative, just a pay-for-play guy, what is in it for Perry? 1. Perhaps Romney offered Perry a position in his administration, such as undersecretary of Agriculture. 2. Perhaps Romney offered Perry a diplomatic post suited to his talents, such as United States Ambassador to Bolivia. 3. Perhaps Perry spent more of his money than we realize, and Romney offered to go to his 1 percent wealthy fundraisers and raise for Perry a little more dough to sweeten the pie. Who knows? I would suggest that by staying in and helping Romney, and hurting Santorum and Gingrich, Perry is to the conservative movement what Benedict Arnold was to the colonists. Or, since Rick Perry likes analogies from the Bible, perhaps a gentleman whose first name begins with J and ends with -udas fairly describes what Perry is doing to the real conservatives today. * * * * I like humor writing as well as the next guy, but this crosses the line. The only thing I agree with is that Perry’s staying in the race helps Mitt Romney by dividing the conservative vote. If Perry runs attack ads in South Carolina, it will be interesting to see who he attacks. He went after Santorum in Iowa for his proclivity for earmarks. Romney will train his fire on Gingrich. If you believe in Budowsky’s theory, which I don’t, Perry will NOT attack Romney. The latest South Carolina polls show Santorum lagging at around 2%, Perry in the mid-to-high single digits, and Ron Paul doing marginally better than Perry. Santorum is going to have to raise a lot of money to stay competitive. He and Perry will contest the evangelical vote. This is going to be a race between Gingrich and Romney, with Gingrich starting with a substantial lead, and Romney having the support of Governor Nikki Haley. It’s hard to envision what role Perry could play other than spoiler.