Perry’s running; no surprise there
In a toe-dragging dance with choreography that would shame a Madonna concert tour, Perry finally admitted he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination after all.
In going from “No, no, absolutely not, no way . . . uh, thinkin’ about it, could reconsider, might do it, probably will do it, almost certain to do it – I’m doing it!” Perry successfully:
• Minimized second-guessing of his actions as governor during the spring legislative session -- such as refusing to use the state’s Rainy Day Fund he earlier had no qualms about using, even while shorting public schools by $4 billion -- as aimed at a presidential campaign; he insisted – unequivocally, and repeatedly -- that he didn’t want to run, and just flat wouldn’t;
• Held a God-Fest in Houston, paid for by a group of anti-gay self-described “prophets,” to broaden and deepen his appeal to the nation’s Christian evangelical community – during the run-up to the Iowa Republican Party’s candidate debate and straw poll;
• Had his campaign staff leak, repeatedly, that he’d probably announce his candidacy on Saturday, Aug. 13, in South Carolina, the first southern state to have a primary;
• Adroitly had his team put out the confi rming leak just before the Thursday, Aug. 11, Iowa debate among several other GOP candidates, including apparent front-runner Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a founder and hero of the Tea Party, so Perry could upstage and overshadow those who did debate;
• Traveled to the nation’s first primary state, New Hampshire, on Saturday evening, after his South Carolina announcement before a convention of conservative bloggers from around the country;
• Flew on to Iowa Sunday for a couple days to make sure to capitalize on the media still there mopping up after the straw poll -- and steal more thunder from the straw poll leaders.
So Perry successfully side-stepped Iowa and ducked both the debate and the straw poll, while blowing his own horn in other states with early races. But then he showed up in Iowa to demonstrate he cares about it, although not enough to participate in their quadrennial cattle call.
While former Massachusetts Gov. Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman participated in the debate and the straw poll, they left Iowa before the time for candidates’ speeches on Saturday during the straw poll voting.
Romney won the Iowa poll four years ago, but has paid little attention to the state this time. He joined Huntsman, who hasn’t moved to Iowa fulltime like some candidates, in assuming nothing good could come from hanging around.
And they were right. Romney finished seventh, with 567 votes, or 3.36 percent; Huntsman finished ninth, with 69 votes, or 0.41 percent.
Meanwhile, Perry’s minions set up a Perry write-in campaign, and it paid off. Though he finished sixth, with 718 votes, or just 3.62 percent, he wasn’t on the ballot, but still got 151 more votes than Romney, who was.
By dragging his feet on officially announcing his candidacy, he could use his fat state campaign swag raised without limits to jet around the country. Until last Saturday, he wouldn’t have to deal with the finance limitations ($2,500 per donor per race) of federal elections.
Some say a clue that Perry earlier genuinely hadn’t planned to run for president was that two top political aides – longtime strategist Dave Carney, of New Hampshire, and Rob Johnson, Perry’s 2010 re-election campaign manager -- had signed on in March with the presidential campaign of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But when Gingrich’s staff quit en masse in early June -- including Carney and Johnson -- there was instant speculation they’d be rejoining Perry.
The other candidates will have to face that Perry is a good retail campaigner, and a prodigious fundraiser. In Texas races, he’s raised more than $100 million over his political career.
Two other things help. He’s chairman of the Republican Governors Association, for the second time, and has been in contact with big donors around the country. And the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations can spend money on political campaigns if they don’t confer with the candidates means there’s a lot of money Perry’s minions are already raising through “separate” independent political action committees.
Two other thoughts:
• A major question to which Perry will learn the answer: Are Americans ready to accept another Republican governor of Texas as president?
• Perry’s friend and former House colleague, the late Ric Williamson – who Perry made head of the Texas transportation commission – died in late 2007. Their mutual friend and housemate, former state Rep. Cliff Johnson, said Williamson hated small planes, and would fly in one only with Perry.
Why make an exception for Perry?
“Because,” Williamson said, “he’s the luckiest SOB in the world.”
Contact McNeely at email@example.com or (512) 458- 2963.