The Road to 2016: Rick Perry
Former three-term Governor of Texas
Presidential candidate in 2012
Currently indicted on felony abuse of power charges for coercing a District Attorney to resign
Keys to the Party:
Was de facto king of Texas, having served as governor for over 14 years
Had a terrible rollout of his 2012 campaign and quickly became the poster boy for poor preparation when he forgot the third federal department he intended to cut in a televised debate
Solid social conservative standing
Keys to the Press:
Currently pending charges in Texas for corruption
Previous gaffes as well as several controversial hyperbolic statements are readily discoverable in the Governor’s past
Rick Perry is a known quantity for the Party. Governor Perry’s previous run for the White House was about as poorly managed as a Presidential run could be. While this should dissuade any future run, most commentary about even a mildly better-put-together run will be good press for Perry. The indictment against Perry may play to his benefit as many of his current rivals for the GOP nomination have come out in Perry’s support. Likewise, the indictment reeks of a political hit on the Governor. Consequently, Perry could play this as the Democratic Party trying to sabotage his campaign because they are afraid of his potential.
Governor Perry has staked out positions on the political right that have made him a prominent player for social conservatives, especially those in the South. Governor Perry’s position on gay rights is nuanced enough to pander both to state’s rights advocates and to those who favor a federal ban on gay marriage. Additionally, Perry’s ardent support for Israel checks another box on the Republican Presidential Litmus Test.
Texas is now, along with other Midwestern and Southern states, a major player in the fracking oil market. Governor Perry’s decisions to allow for additional oil exploration as well as pursuing policies that were favorable to business development in Texas may be his strongest counter to a likely Hillary Clinton nomination from the Democratic Party. At the moment, because of the production boon in American oil, the economy has remained on a growing curve and the price of oil and gas has begun a sharp decline. While this may not continue into the primary elections, one can certainly imagine a candidate Perry either taking credit for pursuing policies that led to greater energy independence or noting that with a Perry Presidency the nation would be able to once again return to a business-friendly climate.
Rick Perry’s disastrous rollout of his 2012 campaign coupled with his current felony charges in Texas make him an easy target by the media and his competitors. The likely line will be: “there are plenty of other Republicans in the race who would be pro-business and socially conservative; you don’t need to settle on the one who couldn’t run a campaign.”
Moreover, Governor Perry’s articulation of his stridently conservative positions, though playing well to the active Republican primary base, have limited acceptance outside of the South (especially assuming that the eventual Democratic nominee will run as a centrist).
Governor Perry is also prone to hyperbole that is unbecoming of a candidate for high office. While statements suggesting former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was a traitor and Islamic immigrants were sneaking across the border may fire up a very small segment of the base, such statements belie a lack of understanding of the nuances of critical issues. Notably, in the 2012 campaign, Perry’s characterization of Bernanke as a traitor even drew criticism from Ron Paul, the chief opponent of the Federal Reserve in Congress. Congressman Paul notably said that he opposed the Federal Reserve but certainly didn’t think Bernanke was guilty of treason. Perry’s tendency to make broad statements does not translate well into debates and is definitely fodder for media criticism.
Perry’s term as Governor of Texas concluded in January of 2015 and his current exposure to the public will only diminish over time. However, his current legal problems could mar his entry into the primaries. Perry’s concern before entering the race, like many of the other former governors and senators considering a run, is how can he separate himself from the rest of the pack, including currently sitting governors with less political baggage. Perry’s greatest bar to entry, like Mitt Romney’s was, is: why should a former loser now think he can succeed in an already deeper field? Thus, at the outset, unless Perry can provide a compelling answer to that question, he will not be able to secure enough money to make a run feasible.
Odds of Winning the Nomination:
If Governor Perry runs, it will mean he is confident that the pro-business platform with broad-but-undefined social conservative credentials is sufficient. It will also mean that he has secured at least enough funding to keep him in the race in order to get to primaries in the South where his brand is much better received. In this early stage, it looks unlikely that Perry would be able to make these leaps, but if he is able to stay in the race long enough for other candidates to lose steam, he may look appealing as a former governor.
Odds of a Cabinet Position:
Governor Perry has proven himself to be a capable executive in Texas but his lack of discernible complex understanding of issues would make a cabinet appointment unlikely. Additionally, because a Republican nominee is likely to carry Texas, Governor Perry would not be on a short list for most potential nominees’ Vice President.
Rick Perry was a competent and long-serving Governor of Texas with an impressive record of growing business in his state. However, his current legal troubles and the lingering doubt as to his competency after a poorly-run primary bid in 2012 make supporting his candidacy difficult for donors.
GovMatt’s Opinion: The Party should thank Governor Perry for his service and send him on his way. The Party needs as close to a clean candidate with fresh ideas, or at least an effective brand presentation, in 2016. Governor Perry’s indictment, difficulty in 2012, and reminiscent qualities of George W. Bush make him unpalatable.