The campaign for Gov. Ronald Reagan announced in July of 1979 that it was out of money. Not only had they used up their $1.3 million stash, but they weren’t pulling in the donors they had hoped. Many were discounting the candidate because of his inability to land large donors, along with questions about his age and stamina.
Despite having run once before, Reagan was deemed a has-been, also ran, and too old to run for the nomination. He had failed in 1976. This time, he was not only trailing in fundraising (fourth, in a field of seven), but had failed to gain ground in the polls throughout the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses. The other candidates were Rep. Phillip Crane (IL), fmr TX Gov. John Connally, George HW Bush, Sen. Howard Baker (TN), Sen. Bob Dole (KS) and Gov. Harold Stassen (MN).
Campaign manager John Sears ousts several volunteers and staff members and begins to reorganize the campaign since little results are being seen. The campaign has sunk $500,000 in debt by this point, under his leadership and something needs to change. Within weeks, the campaign decides to go the public financing route and accept federal matching funds and strict limits on primary spending.
JANUARY 21, 1980:
Reagan runs for, and loses the Iowa caucuses to Bush. Funding is still tight, but the campaign wages on. Two weeks later, Puerto Rico fails to even have Reagan’s name on the ballot. The campaign continues to be hobbled by internal strife among staff, but Reagan keeps going. Some traction is seen in ads and his debate performance, culminating in his classic “I paid for this microphone” moment in Nashua, NH on Feb. 23rd.
FEBRUARY 26, 1980:
Gov. Reagan fires top staff on the very day of the New Hampshire primary, and installs conservative stalwart Bill Casey to run his operation. Regardless of the strife, he wins New Hampshire by a 50-23% haul over second-place Bush. This is the turning point. Two weeks later, Reagan loses Massachusetts with only 29% of the vote, but wins Vermont by a 9% margin. As Reagan begins to stack his victories, he engages Bush more sternly in debates.
The last remaining challenger, John Anderson withdraws from the race on April 23, 1980, leaving only Reagan and Bush to duke it out until the convention. A classic debate is waged on April 24th, in which he shows the GOP faithful that he is worthy of carrying the banner in November. One of his memorable quotes: “government doesn’t tax the money it needs, it’s needs the money it gets.”
JUNE 1, 1980:
By June, Reagan is the clear leader, despite the fundraising disadvantage and staff troubles during the campaign. He has found his voice in the race, and begins to unite Americans against the legacy of the Jimmy Carter malaise. The Washington Post qualifies the upset victory as harvesting “the seeds of his victory in the Republican presidential contest [that] were sown in the dark hours of defeat after the Iowa precinct caucuses last Jan. 21.” The troubles even continue into the GOP convention later that summer, but Reagan prevails, and the rest is history.
STILL QUALIFIED, STILL INSPIRING
Rick Perry’s failed 2012 effort is well-known. Ronald Reagan also ran in 1975-76, but lost that primary in a field of 12 candidates. Both men’s campaigns were more about bad timing and a lack of preparation than anything else. From the moment they exited their first race, both governors determined to not make the same mistake twice. We know how Reagan’s second bout ended. Perry is healthier, stronger, and has solidly more foreign and domestic policy knowledge today than four years ago, and arguably more than any candidate now running. Not only does he have an almost wonkish grasp of policy, but he has an unmatched record of success in governing a large, diversified state, leading or encouraging reform in multiple difficult political realms and even reducing overall spending in the state of Texas. His record is undebatable.
But today, Perry finds his personal campaign in a similar pinch as Reagan did in 1979. On August 11th, 2015 it was revealed that Perry’s campaign had re-designated all of it’s non-essential staff back to volunteer status until further notice. Several of them began as volunteers. While affiliated PACs had raised nearly $17 million by July 1st, his personal campaign had been drained by an arduous process and even frivolous legal fights.
The governor is not shutting down his campaign, he is recalibrating. Nonetheless, media sources that created a celebrity candidate and ratings-driven politics are now counting Perry out before the race even begins.
This is simply false.
All but one of his staff has chosen to continue with the campaign on a volunteer basis, and there is no break in forward motion.
Rick Perry is still the most qualified candidate running, and if you consider yourself a respectable, thinking and principled conservative, you know that Perry is the best choice. Even outlets like the Washington Post surmised that Perry has the “best record of any conservative,” and “could beat Clinton” in a head-to-head matchup.
Every leader faces hurdles. While some conservatives mock Jeb Bush for having over $100 million, they laugh at Perry’s paltry $1.1 million. It seems conservatives can’t make up their mind in this Baskin Robbins assortment of flavors. 17 candidates now, by last count. If evenly distributed, that’s 5.8% for every candidate. It almost seems designed to force out good candidates before they can gain traction.
Once the initial process is underway and various fringe campaigns flame out, look for Gov. Perry to press on. As Mort Zuckerman said, Perry is “knowledgable, forceful, has a great sense of humor.” After his first debate performance, a myriad of commentators remarked how well Perry performed. Expect him to move into 2016 stronger, more energetic and perhaps the best communicator of conservative ideals since Reagan himself.
That kind of determination worked for Reagan, who went on to win a nomination no one thought he could. In 2007, broke and sideways, Sen. John McCain also found his campaign in a similar place. He also went on to win that nomination. This is not uncharted territory, it just takes a dedicated leader and patient supporters.
If you think that Rick Perry deserves to stay in this race and have a chance to show America what he has to offer, please support his campaign with $10, $15 or $25 today by clicking HERE.
Note: I am not associated with or working for Perry For President, or any affiliated PAC. These thoughts are purely my own.