The quid pro quo in cronyism is often tough to pin down, and may be something as simple as "favors for a (qualified) friend." Harriet Miers was a crony pick for SCOTUS, by GWB. What's in it for Bush? Not much, if anything. He just liked Miers, she'd been a trusted insider of his for many years, and he was giving her what he thought was a justified reward.
-- the charge that the main reason Perry did the mandate was to help Merck is extrememly weak --
I don't think that charge holds water, any more than "Perry did it for $6,000." But, failing either of those doesn't result in concluding that there was no cronyism (maybe by Perry's chief of staff, and Perry just went along).
-- If this is all they got regarding Perry and crony capitalism, then they might as well give up on that issue. --
I think the Gardasil issue resonates with many people as an insufficiently justified intrusion into parental prerogative. I haven't heard this aspect probed much, in that I believe Perry would LIKE to have Gardasil mandatory, just via legislation instead of EO.
As for the cronyism, if he didn't care (was indifferent) to his chief of staff pushing favors for business friends (assuming for the sake of discussion there is some "there" there), that could also be read (right or wrong) as indifference to cronyism.
I haven't gone looking for much, but Perry's "cronyism detractors" have more in the form of his successful real estate deals.
Agreed, the charge of cronyism with respect to gardisil is extrememly weak, and certainly insufficient to nix Perry as a candidate. There are far better reasons to nix the other candidates, i.e. lunacy (Paul), no exec experience and her own cronyism via ethanol subsidies (bachmann), never held office (cain), and then of course Romney needs no explanation.