Rick Perry Begins His Improbable Attempt At An Unlikely Comeback
Rick Perry is hoping to do something that hasn't happened before in American politics, come back from a campaign that imploded.
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who four years ago saw a campaign that went from the top to the bottom in record time, announced today that he is once again running for President:
ADDISON, Tex. — Rick Perry, the former Texas governor whose 2012 campaign for the White House turned into a political disaster that humbled and weakened the most powerful Republican in the state, announced Thursday that he will run for president again in 2016.
Mr. Perry is the latest candidate to officially enter a crowded field of Republican presidential contenders, declared and undeclared, several of whom have Texas ties and have overshadowed him in recent months, including Senator Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush, Mr. Perry’s predecessor in the governor’s mansion.
“We will make it through the Obama years,” he told a cheering crowd at a small municipal airport here in Addison, a northern suburb of downtown Dallas. Saying, “It’s time,” he declared in an impassioned speech, “I am running for the presidency of the United States of America.”
The location had to do with his giant stage prop – a C-130 plane, the type he flew serving in the United States Air Force in the 1970s.
The plane – parked behind the stage and emblazoned with “Perry for President” – illustrated one of the ways Mr. Perry plans to distinguish himself from the other Republican candidates, by emphasizing his service in the military and his support from veterans, several of whom joined him on stage, including Marcus Luttrell, the former Navy SEAL whose memoir inspired the movie “Lone Survivor.”
In his speech, Mr. Perry also sought to separate himself from other Republican contenders by casting himself as a leader who has done the work rather than a politician who talks about doing it, pointing to his handling of natural disasters and crisises at the border and his 14-year tenure as governor of a state with the 12th-largest economy in the world.
“The question of every candidate will be this one: when have you led?” Mr. Perry said. “Leadership is not a speech on the Senate floor. It’s not what you say. It’s what you do. And we will not find the kind of leadership needed to revitalize the country by looking to the political class in Washington.”
But whether Mr. Perry has done enough to repair the damage from his failed run in 2012 and to thrust himself out of the second tier of candidates he finds himself in remains unclear. Even in Texas, Mr. Perry has already lost crucial support to some of his rivals. Steve Munisteri, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, has been heading up Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign in Texas. Many of the grass-roots Tea Party activists in Texas have flocked to Mr. Cruz, while some of those in the more mainstream Texas Republican establishment are supporting Mr. Bush, whose son, George P. Bush, is the state’s new land commissioner.
“Activists will be attracted to him and give him a second chance if he can bring some buzz and show the energy to demonstrate he can build a viable effort,” said David M. Carney, a former political consultant to Mr. Perry and a top strategist for his 2012 campaign. “With so many new shiny objects in the race this cycle, this will be the hardest hurdle he will need to climb. Perry provides a robust record of accomplishments that no one can rival,” Mr. Carney said. “The question remains: Can he put the other pieces into play, and has his time passed?”
His 2012 bid for president was filled with gaffes that became national punch lines. He famously uttered “oops” during a debate after he failed to recall the name of one of three federal agencies he would eliminate if elected president. Shortly before he dropped out of the race, he ended up in fifth place in the Iowa caucuses.
In the years since, Mr. Perry has worked at retooling and sharpening both his image and his political chops, making frequent trips to early voting states, meeting with influential policy experts, attending the World Economic Forum in 2014 in Switzerland and even making two cosmetic changes — donning hipster-style black-rimmed eyeglasses and trading his cowboy boots for black loafers.
“He has focused like a laser beam on the task of running for president in 2016 almost since he dropped out of the race,” said Deirdre Delisi, a former chief of staff to Mr. Perry and the policy director for his 2012 campaign. “He has really benefited from using the time in between the last cycle and this cycle, and getting himself more comfortable to be on the national stage.”
Rick Perry’s story is a familiar one.
He entered the 2012 Presidential race at a relatively late date to much fanfare, and saw his poll numbers and his fundraising hit record levels in a very short period of time. When the debates rolled around, though his gaffes on immigration, the Gardasil controversy, and his seeming inability to form coherent thoughts took their toll and he was quickly brought down to Earth. In comments afterwards, Perry seemed to admit that at least part of his problem was that he was not physically up to the rigors of campaigning due to the fact that he had just had back surgery some six weeks before diving into the Presidential race. Whatever the reason, though, the first impression that most voters got of Rick Perry was not a flattering one and, as Harry Enten notes, Perry is trying to so something that few Presidential candidates have ever been able to do:
Perry’s collapse beats out the other non-Romneys who had brief star turns during the 2012 GOP primary. It was worse than those of Newt Gingrich (who actually won two primaries) and Herman Cain, who had never won elected office and left the race amid sexual harassment allegations.
Perry’s fall was also worse than other late “here I come on a white horse” entrants, including Democrat Wesley Clark, who had never run for political office, and Republican Fred Thompson, who bored crowds and clearlyhadn’t been keeping up with the news after leaving the Senate.
Perhaps most impressively, Perry’s drop somehow beats what I would argue were the most epic declines of all time. I’m talking about Rudy Giuliani, who sat atop GOP primary polls for much of 2007 and then all but disappeared when people actually started casting ballots in 2008; Gary Hart, who dropped out of the 1988 race as the front-runner after his affair with Donna Rice became public and then re-entered the race and found little support; John Glenn, who was well-known as an astronaut, less so as a politician; and Howard Dean, who fell apart in Iowa and did that whole “scream” thing. And who can forget Edmund Muskie, who was famously accused of cryingafter defending his wife from attacks from the Manchester Union-Leader?
You might notice something about this list of candidates: Not a single one ever ran for president again. In fact, no candidate who averaged 10 percent or more in at least one month from September through December in the year before the primary and ended up with less than 15 percent of the national primary vote has ever run again. Simply put, there have not been second acts for candidates who fall that hard in presidential politics.
Can Perry, who suffered the worst collapse of any of these candidates, possibly come back? Without any perfect precedent, it’s difficult to know.
It’s not uncommon for people who have run for President and lost to do it again. William Jennings Bryan did it three times, Thomas Dewey was the Republican nominee for President in two successive elections and Adalai Stevenson did the same thing for the Democrats, and Mitt Romney was a two-time candidate as well. While those candidates were never elected President, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush all were and they all had unsuccessfully run for office once before. The difference between Perry and all of these people, though, is that none of them suffered the kind of devastating fall from grace that Perry did, and none of them ran a campaign that made them look like, well, an idiot. As Enten notes, Perry is in a class of candidates made up entirely of people who never went on to win their party’s nomination or become President. If he were to somehow manage to win the Republican nomination in 2016, he would do something that has never been done in modern American political history.
Based on the evidence we have so far, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be successful.
Perry is in the unique position of being what I may believe be the first major candidate for President to ever begin a campaign while being under a the shadow of criminal indictment. Perry has a criminal indictment for public corruption hanging over his head that seems unlikely to be resolved at any point in the near future, and which may go to trial while he’s campaigning. The indictment centers around dispute between Perry and thechief prosecutor in Austin at the time he was Governor, whose duties included investigating and prosecuting crimes involving members of the Executive Branch.After the prosecutor was arrested on a DUI charge, Perry said that he would not sign the bill funding her office unless she resigned but many of his opponents suggested that his real motivation for going after her was the ongoing investigations of some of his appointment. The indictment alleges that Perry used his veto power against the prosecutor. This is, as I’ve noted before, an odd charge since the Texas Constitution gives the Governor unlimited veto power. Legal scholars on both sides of the aisle have argued that the indictment is legally insufficient, but despite that the Judge presiding over the case has denied several attempts by Perry’s attorneys to dismiss the case, most recently in January. Those rulings are apparently now being appealed through the Texas court system, but it’s unclear when those appeals might be ruled on. Obviously, being under indictment is not an ideal situation for a candidate.
In the national polls, as well as the polling in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida, Perry is in the bottom of the pack with somewhere between 3.3% and 2.5% support. Based on the current RealClearPolitics average, Perry would just barely make the cut to get into the first debates coming up in August since he stands at the bottom of a list of the top ten candidates in the race. Unless those numbers improve dramatically, Rick Perry’s second act isn’t going to be much better than his first.