The Perry Second Chance

rick-perry2When Texas Governor Rick Perry opted not to run for another term, it became obvious that he was gearing up for another presidential run.  Since 2012, he has appeared at events in Iowa at least 33 times and, in fact, his campaign began almost the day after he bowed out of contention in 2012.  If we look over the history of both parties, we generally find retreads along the way.  Richard Nixon ran and lost in 1960 only to come back in 1968 and win the Presidency.  Ronald Reagan lost in 1976 only to come roaring back in 1980.  Even [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ]’s failed effort in 2000 resulted in a 2008 comeback.  In short, second chances are usually afforded failed candidates, but third chances are extremely rare.

Of course, for Rick Perry there are two things that must be overcome.  The first is the bogus indictment pending against him which a judge recently decided not to dismiss.  This intrigue is unique to Texas with national implications.  Without getting into the details, suffice to say this is strictly a politically motivated hack job on a popular ex-Governor.  I have previously written that there seems to be some Democratic dirty tricks involved when it comes to potential Republican candidates in 2016.  Besides Perry, there were the notorious “John Doe” investigations of Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the faux Bridgegate scandal involving Chris Christie in New Jersey.  In the case of Perry, it is even more egregious since it involves highjacking the judicial system to advance a political dirty trick.

I have no doubt that should this actually result in a trial, Rick Perry would be acquitted and vindicated.  To his credit, he is not demanding that the state pay for his defense and he is using campaign donation money for his defense.  More on this in a bit.  However, the damage has been done.  By simply linking the name “Perry” to the word “indicted,” there will be those nagging questions among the vast majority of voters who do not understand the politics of the indictment.  The tactic is so obviously politically-motivated that several high profile Democrats have noted it and have written or spoken in Perry’s defense.  Threatening a veto over anything is a part of political life and it would be a damn shame if such was elevated to a crime.

Actually, this could be a tactic that backfires on Perry’s detractors.  In early primary states like Iowa and South Carolina, these actions are confirming the worst the Democrats can offer- a smear campaign against a popular Texas Governor.  Juxtaposing Perry’s mugshot against a video of that spew that started this whole episode should be played to Perry’s advantage.  Perry could portray himself as a victim of misplaced Democratic anger and show the lengths to which they would go to defeat him.

The other “knock” on Perry, and the most important, is his 2012 performance.  In all honesty, this writer is willing to give Perry a pass having watched that campaign unfold.  The conservative base of the Party was looking for a savior and hero when Perry entered the fray.  People like Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich were falling by the wayside.  Perry was rushed into the campaign and it showed.  His gaffes were magnified under the microscope of national politics.  A man who was the longest serving Governor in Texas history will be remembered for failing to remember the third federal department he would abolish.  Likewise, he looked and sounded lost when it came to foreign policy issues.  As he himself noted, it was the weakest Republican field of candidates in decades and he got his butt kicked.

If we ignore these gaffes, we are left with an impressive record for Perry.  If anything else, he is clearly not a liberal who will pursue liberal policies and that fact plays very well in the primaries and caucuses where the more conservative voters show up.  Facts speak for themselves.   A recent article noted that during the time Perry was Governor, 30% of all jobs created in the United States were created in Texas.  That is impressive in and of itself.  And there are other facts, like his handling of Wendy Davis and the abortion bill, that could and should win the hearts and minds of conservative primary voters.  In addition, Obama’s lax border enforcement policies handed  Perry a life line to show leadership and he clearly showed more leadership as Governor of Texas than Obama showed as President.

In response to 2012, a candidate could do one of two things: regroup and come back, or slink into political obscurity and enter the private sector.  Perry obviously opted for the former.  He has learned from the recent past.  He looks healthier and he has done his homework on major policy issues, especially foreign policy.  He has given speeches abroad towards those ends.  He is engaging the media more.  This was evident on an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show when he was introduced to a chorus of “boos” from the left-leaning audience.  By the end of the interview, he was greeted by applause.  Without compromising conservative principles, he proved that he was not some extremist boob out to win the presidency.  Additionally, Perry has an earlier start this time and entered the fray on his terms, not at the bequest of others.  Although Reagan’s performance in 1976 was not as bad as Perry’s in 2012, there are parallels.  The only question that remains is whether Perry can come roaring back four years later like Reagan did in 1980.

Like any candidate, this apparent possible resurgence comes with a caveat and it involves money.  With Bush exploring a possible run, it places pressure on Perry.  He relied on many of the same donors in Texas for his gubernatorial campaigns that Bush is now trying to win over.  Although Perry’s donor base does not totally overlap with that of Bush in Texas, there still is some overlap nevertheless.  There will be intense competition for those donors.  There is additional intrigue here.  In the 2010 gubernatorial Republican primary, the Bush operatives supported Kay Bailey Hutchinson in that election and threw Bush money behind her in a effort to defeat Perry.  Perry, of course, went on to win not only the primary, but another term as Governor.  There is still residual animosity between the Bush and Perry camps over this.

And since Bush may be the fall back choice of many establishment Republican donors, Perry’s sometimes anti-establishment rhetoric may prove a disadvantage when it comes to fundraising.  One can rest assured Bush will be making that point to donors sitting on the fence in Texas.  The goal, therefore, is for Perry to lean on his Texas donor base while expanding his donor base beyond Texas’ borders.  Whether he can win over donors in delegate-rich swing or blue states remains to be seen and my guess is that some money is sitting on the sidelines awaiting for any sign of weakness in Perry that would provide an excuse to place their money elsewhere.  If Perry can actually expand his donor base beyond Texas, then his chances increase exponentially.

However, there are reports that the indictment hanging over his head is also holding back some donors.  Additionally, he is using campaign funds to fight the charges in an effort to save Texas taxpayers the bill.  Obviously, this diverts limited funds from actual campaigning to a legal defense against bogus charges.  In essence, potential donors have to ask themselves whether they are willing to write a check towards Perry’s legal defense.  If this episode is not cleared up by the time the Iowa caucuses roll around, then Perry’s chances with donors decreases and could scare away other potential donors despite his primary or caucus performance.

Like Chris Christie on the moderate Republican/establishment side, Rick Perry cannot be counted out as a player in 2016.  He enters this race better prepared and more methodical.  He is less rushed.  He is not the savior of the more conservative voters that he was in 2012 since there are other conservatives in the field to take the pressure off Perry.  Although fundraising potential remains problematic, Rick Perry’s performance in 2012 was so down that he basically has nowhere to go but up.  The GOP has a habit of giving a candidate a legitimate second chance.  If so, that would make his resurgence look more meteoric than that of Reagan from 1976 to 1980.  To do so, Perry has to run an almost perfect campaign because there likely is no third chance.