Rick Perry Campaign Blame Game Already Underway

Rick Perry's campaign team is already starting to blame each other for the collapse of a campaign that isn't over yet.

Just over 72 hours before an Iowa Caucus that is likely to be make-or-break for his campaign, Rick Perry’s Presidential Campaign seems to be writing its own postmortem:

DES MOINES — With a revamped message and a significant TV presence here, Rick Perry is hoping to revive his disappointing presidential campaign with a surprise finish Tuesday.

But even as they hold out hope that Perry can find a way back into contention, some of his advisers have begun laying the groundwork to explain how the Texas governor bombed so dramatically in a race that he seemed to control for a brief period upon his entry in August.

Their explanations for the nosedive come against the backdrop of a campaign riven by an intense, behind-the-scenes power struggle that took place largely between a group of the governor’s longtime advisers and a new cadre of consultants brought on this fall. In the end, the outsiders won out — and ever since have marginalized Perry’s longtime chief strategist while crafting a new strategy in which the Texan has portrayed himself as a political outsider and culture warrior.

In a series of interviews with POLITICO, sources close to the campaign depict a dysfunctional operation that might be beyond saving because of what they describe as the political equivalent of malpractice by the previous regime.

“There has never been a more ineptly orchestrated, just unbelievably subpar campaign for president of the United States than this one,” said a senior Perry adviser.

This is hardly the kind of thing you want to hear on the final weekend before the official start of the primary season.  There’s no doubt that Perry’s campaign has been inept at times, of course. Their failure to quickly respond to criticism over the candidates own missteps during the debates in September, and then again in November, was evident for everyone to see. The manner in which they let a candidate who’s been running for office, and winning, since the 1980s get eclipsed by a former pizza company executive with no political experience was pretty astounding. And, as a final sign of failure, the inept manner in which the campaign handled the relatively simple issue of qualifying for the ballot in Virginia was one of the worst examples of disorganization we’ve seen in quite some time. Perry entered the race in early August, later than any of the other candidates. While he was able to rise to the front of the back relatively quickly, it was fairly obvious from the start that Perry could not afford to make many mistakes. Unlike candidates who had entered the race in the spring, there would be little time for Perry to recover from embarrassing gaffes, misstatements, questions about his record, or sensationalistic stories that are bound to come out during the course of a Presidential campaign. Those candidates had the luxury of time to recover from their errors, and the fact that fewer people were paying attention to the GOP race in April and May than in August and September when attention was quickly, and glaringly directed at the Governor of Texas. When Perry wilted under the spotlight, he suffered a drop in the polls as quick and spectacular as his rise and, until a few recent polls in Iowa, there’s been no sign that he could recover.

At this point, the blame game seems to have already started, and the finger pointing between Perry’s longtime Texas allies and the national advisers he brought into the campaign a few months ago has already started:

Yet the view of the outsiders who took over Perry’s campaign is that the candidate was set up for failure by an insular group led by Dave Carney, the governor’s longtime political guru, which thought they could run a presidential campaign like a larger version of a gubernatorial race and didn’t take the basic steps needed to professionalize the operation until the candidate already was sinking.

“They put the campaign together like all the other Perry campaigns: raise a bunch of money, don’t worry about the [media coverage], don’t worry about debates and buy the race on TV,” said a top Perry official. “You have to be a total rube to think a race for president is the same as a race for governor.”

Because Perry had never been defeated in his career in state politics — and came from behind to crush Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in last year’s Texas gubernatorial primary — his Texas operation projected an air of supreme self-assurance and indifference to outside advice.

Running a Gubernatorial campaign in Texas is far different from running for President of the United States, and it does not appear that Perry has had the assistance of anyone equal to Karl Rove when it comes to political strategy. I’m not sure if Perry’s campaign problems came from the Texas roots of his advisers though, at least not completely. The fact that he rose to the top of the field so soon after entering the race arguably infused the entire campaign, including the candidate, with a sense of arrogance and inevitability that has been there downfall. How else do you explain the fact that Perry has been bested by the likes of Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Newt Gingrich at various times over the past three months?

The other factor in all of this is, of course, the candidate. No matter how good a team of political advisers might be, there’s only so much that they can do if the candidate isn’t fully up to snuff. Recently, for example. Perry has admitted that residual pain from the back surgery he had in June has been an issue for him ever since he entered the race. Standing for long periods of time has been an issue for him. This isn’t exactly a surprise, though. When people started noticing in September that Perry seemed to be zoning out after about an hour in each of the debates in September, some in the media speculated about whether the back surgery was playing a role in Perry’s performance. The campaign quickly denied those rumors, perhaps fearing that any such admission would be seen as a sign that Perry wasn’t up to the task of running for President (of course, JFK had similar back problems while he was a candidate and President, we just didn’t know about it, or about the medication he took to deal with it). I’m not sure what the campaign could have done about this issue, but perhaps acknowledging it would have been smarter than ignoring it. Finally, of course, there’s the fact that Perry just doesn’t seem up to the task of campaigning intellectually, and unless you have a candidate willing to sit down and study briefing books there’s nothing you can do about that.

Rick Perry may yet do well enough on Tuesday night to give his campaign renewed viability heading into South Carolina (given the polls they should just bypass New Hampshire entirely at this point), but if this is how things are going inside Perry HQ I’m not sure how much longer he’ll last after that.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. ponce says:

    And yet…the people of Texas have elected this clown three times to run their state.

  2. Septimius says:

    Don’t discount the effect of Rove on the GOP establishment. Rove and Perry don’t get along. As the sitting governor of a large state with a bona fide track record in job creation, Perry should have been racking up endorsements from Governors, Senators, and Members of Congress all over the country. That never really happened.

  3. matt says:

    @Septimius: As a Texas resident I can barely subdue my laughter enough to complete this post…

  4. Septimius says:

    @Matt: That’s an extremely incisive point you make. Congratulations on being a Texas resident with the ability to subdue your laughter.

  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I’m just glad that people outside Texas have had a chance to see what sort of in(s)anity those of us here have to put up with. If we didn’t have party-line voting on our ballots, I think he would have come under greater scrutiny over the years.

  6. matt says:

    @Septimius: your “Bonafide job creator” comment was so absurd it’s readily apparent that you have no interest in discussing reality. It’s not worth my time compile the obvious evidence just so you can dismiss it.

  7. Septimius says:

    @Matt: Apparently, you know nothing about politics, so I will school you. Texas has added jobs over the past three years. You can look that up. Whether you want to credit Perry for that (or even if he deserves any credit) is irrelevant. As Governor, he gets to take credit. Just like Bill Clinton gets to take credit for a strong economy in the late 90’s. Perry is the only candidate who can boast any kind of record in job creation. In a Republican primary, it is a great issue to have and made Perry an extremely attractive candidate. In fact, Perry’s candidacy started strong (he was leading national polls from late August until early October). Yet, he never was able to attract strong support from establishment Republicans (as evidenced by the lack of endorsement from prominent elected Governors, Senators, and Congress people). Yes, Perry ran a terrible campaign (as Doug’s article explained.) Yes, Perry was a bad candidate who made some inexcusable gaffes (as Doug’s article noted.) However, the article failed to mention that Rove has actively worked against Perry and the possibility that Rove’s (and his American Crossroads Super PAC) influence has hurt Perry among establishment Republicans. That was the point of my post (go ahead and read it again.) I realize that you may have been too distracted by a shiny object to understand.

  8. matt says:

    @Septimius: Texas is the biggest supplier for refined oils for the country and is also a major exporter/importer crude. Also aiding Texas is the fact that there’s a crapton of federal bases here. Matter fact the single largest source of income for the state of Texas is the federal government. So basically the federal government and the OIL sector are the only things propping up the economy here. So yeah try to “school” me when you don’t even realize the real power of the state lies in the hands of the LT governor. There is good news though in that the retail sector saw pretty decent sales last month.

  9. matt says:

    I will give Perry props for helping to fight to keep NASA here.

  10. Septimius says:

    @matt: I’m going to say it one more time, so please try to pay attention. It is completely irrelevant that the oil industry and the federal government are “propping up the Texas economy.” Politically, Perry gets to campaign as a Governor of a large state with a track record in job creation. Why is Romney the front-runner with the largest organization and the most endorsements from Governors, Senators, and Congress people? Because he is considered the most electable. Perry should have been able to take that mantle but he never did. My point was that Rove’s influence was a factor as to why Perry never made any major inroads with the GOP establishment.

    I don’t care to get into a discussion about the Texas economy. I don’t live in Texas. I live on Earth.

  11. matt says:

    Of course you don’t want to get into a discussion about the Texas economy because you probably already know that reality disagrees with your talking point about Perry being a “job creator”…

  12. Septimius says:

    When every other state is losing jobs, and your state is gaining jobs, you get to take credit. That’s how politics works. My original post had absolutely nothing to do with where the jobs came from. The article was about the abysmal Perry campaign and how they were already blaming each other. No one cares that most of the jobs created in Texas were government jobs. (Although, my quick research shows that while that may be true, Texas significantly outpaces the national average in creating private sector jobs as well.) Again, the point was that Perry’s feud with Rove hurt him nationally.

    You were being a smug little troll who took a passing comment that had little to do with my overall point and attacked it. I’m sure you felt very good about yourself afterward.

  13. matt says:

    @Septimius:The unemployment rate in Texas is just barely below the national average.

    You also still haven’t addressed the fact that Rick Perry had little to do with any jobs that were created as the real power is in the hands of the Lt governor…

  14. matt says:

    You were being a smug little troll who took a passing comment that had little to do with my overall point and attacked it. I’m sure you felt very good about yourself afterward.

    You’ve admitted that you have very little knowledge of the economy in Texas and that pride admittance of ignorance just stabs at me. Your simple minded take on my state also annoyed me. I just have a hard time sitting back and letting blowhards spew forth lies in the form of talking points.

    Using your own metric then Obama is a job creator and saved this country from Bush and the Republicans who were driving this country into an economic ditch..

  15. anna Ford says:

    I really think Rik Perry is the man for president. However, he meeds help. I have donated to his campaign a few times but he needds an edge. I think it might be dwwelling on his military experience and compare what Obama is doing to our military today in these volotile times. Obama is destroying our military and will make us a weak nation.