Texas Gov. Rick Perry May Find Cold Shoulder, New Challengers Back Home
WASHINGTON -- In his farewell speech to a less-than-sterling run for the presidency, Gov. Rick Perry offered a message for his fellow Texans.
"So now the journey leads us back to Texas, neither discouraged nor disenchanted, but instead rewarded for the experience and resolute to remain in the arena and in the service of a great nation," Perry promised. "And this I know: I am not done fighting for the cause of conservatism."
Perry will be picking up the fight in a much different arena than the one he left when he began his failed campaign last August. But he comes back to the Lone Star State less like Tim Tebow -- the popular religious-minded quarterback to whom he once compared himself -- and more like Tony Romo, the cowboy quarterback whose late-game gaffes have bewildered Texans.
Put simply, it's tough for Perry to go home again. A recent poll had him losing in the state to Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Today, the hashtag #welcomehomegoaway became a popular trending topic on Twitter in Austin. His onetime Tea Party rival Debra Medina endorsed the sentiment, tweeting, "Gov. Perry, welcome home. Now, please retire."
After a decade of Perry's vanquishing foes with relative ease, there's a sense among Austin politicos that the presidential run exposed him as unsure, easily distracted and out of his depth. Democrats now have a treasure trove of debate foibles to use in future campaign commercials. Now Republicans don't fear his once intimidating inner circle.
"There's been talk of people trying to convince him to consider an alternative path for several days now," said Miller, whose firm is one of the most politically connected in the state. "I heard that people in the campaign were urging him to consider an alternative path. I think that donors probably spoke nonverbally by not writing checks."
Perry made the right move, Miller said. "Getting out is smart," he said. "It's a dead-end street. Cut your loses and come back home to your day job."
Perry's fate in Texas will depend largely, Miller said, on the governor's attitude. "Texas is sympathetic to him," he insisted. "He will come back to a sympathetic audience. If he's positive, he'll be fine. If he comes back and wants to punish people ... it can be a different place for him. It's kind of his call."
Michael King, Austin Chronicle's news editor, agrees with Miller in part. "Texas politics is backward enough that it may come back and embrace him," he said. But the governor is going to have to do more than just smile through the statehouse. "He hasn't paid much attention at all to Texas politics, and we got serious health care problems, serious health insurance problems, serious drought problems -- many of which can only be addressed through federal money."
Perry may have a limited honeymoon in Texas. "I think there has been Perry fatigue brewing in Texas for some time," said Jeff Rotkoff, a Democratic consultant in Austin. "There are Republicans who smell blood in the water ... Clearly Democrats are energized."
The Texas governor isn't up for re-election until 2014. Ray Sullivan, his communications director, has left the door open for another presidential run in 2016. But that seems highly unlikely.
At least one Perry backer sees a silver lining in the candidate's failure. Dan Shelley, his former legislative director, formed two super PACs -- Jobs for Vets Fund and Veterans for Rick Perry -- in support of his former boss. Now, he can finally reunite with Perry after those campaign finance laws kept them apart. They can hang out without the taint of possible Federal Elections Commission violations.
When reached by Huff Post this afternoon, Shelley did not want to comment for this story. But he said of Perry: "I'll probably visit with him in the next day or two."
At the CNBC debate on November 9, Perry <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/rick-perry-oops-video_n_1085336.html" target="_hplink">famously forgot</a> one of the government agencies he would eliminate if elected: <blockquote>"It's three government agencies when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education and the um, what's the third one there. Let's see," Perry said. He turned to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, looking for some help, but got nothing but a remark from Paul that he would eliminate five agencies. "Oh five," Perry said. "So Commerce, Education, and, uh, the uh, um, um." "EPA?" offered former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "EPA, there ya go," Perry said as the room exploded in laughter. CNBC moderator John Harwood honed in and pressed Perry: "Seriously? Is EPA the one you were talking about?" "No sir. No sir. We were talking about the, um, agencies of government," Perry said. "The EPA needs to be rebuilt." "But you can't name the third one?" Harwood persisted. "The third agency of government," Perry said. "I would do away with the education, the um, Commerce, and let's see. I can't think of the third one. I can't. Sorry. Oops."</blockquote>
Voting Age Flub
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/29/rick-perry-gets-voting-ag_n_1119126.html" target="_hplink">During a campaign stop</a> at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, Perry got both the voting age and the date of the 2012 presidential election wrong. "Those of you that will be 21 by November the 12th, I ask for your support and your vote," he said to the students. The legal voting age has been 18 since the 26th Amendment was adopted in 1971. The general election is scheduled for November 6, 2012.
New Hampshire... Caucus?
During a November <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/30/rick-perry-new-hampshire-caucus_n_1120304.html" target="_hplink">interview </a>with Fox News, Perry mistakenly referred to the New Hampshire "caucuses." When asked about the emergence of front runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, Perry responded, "Americans haven't decided yet at all who they want to lead the Republican nomination, and we're going to be talking about that and we're going to be talking about it in harsh and strong terms over the course of the next four to five weeks as we get ready for those New Hampshire caucuses." New Hampshire holds primaries, not caucuses.
Minimum Age To Run For President
While speaking to Catcher Jones, a seven-year-old from Greenville, South Carolina in December, Perry flubbed the minimum age to run for president. "I'm glad you're not 21," Perry told Jones, who was wearing a t-shirt that said "Future President: Accepting Campaign Donations Now." Perry realized his mistake and added, "Or actually 35."
War With Iran
After a woman in South Carolina asked Perry what he thought about current United States military operations, Perry mistakenly started talking about the wars in Afghanistan and Iran. When an audience member alerted Perry to his error, he joked that his comment "will be on the front page."
Following a debate in New Hampshire, Perry met with fraternity brothers at Dartmouth College. When someone asked him about the issue of states' rights, Perry said that one of the "reasons we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown." The Revolutionary War occurred in the 18th century.
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OMK7La2721Y" target="_hplink">In an interview</a> with CNN last year, Perry got stuck in a time warp. "Washington has abused the Constitution. You go back to the, a decade ago, with Woodrow Wilson..." Wilson was president from 1913 to 1921.
Bizarre Campaign Speech
In October, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/29/video-rick-perrys-unusual-speech-performance_n_1065571.html" target="_hplink">an unusual performance</a> at a speech in Manchester led many to question the candidate's sobriety. Perry later made a statement to dispel rumors that he was drinking or using painkillers during the speech.
Bush Was Good At "Defending Us From Freedom"
During an interview with the <em>Today Show</em> last November, Perry told host Meredith Viera that "Bush did an incredible job, in the presidency, defending us from freedom."
While speaking with the editorial board of the <em>Des Moines Register</em>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/09/rick-perry-gaffe-sonia-sotomayor_n_1139541.html?1323463939" target="_hplink">Perry struggled</a> to remember Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's name: <blockquote>"Do you really think he [President Barack Obama] is waging a war on religion?" asked an editorial board member, referring to Perry's recent ad pledging to "end Obama's war on religion" and "fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage" as president. "I do because when you see his appointment of two -- from my perspective, inarguably -- activist judges, whether it was," he said, then trailing off for about six seconds trying to recall her name. "Montomayor," he said. Someone on the editorial board said Sotomayor's name. "Sotomayor and [Elena] Kagan, who are both activist judges," he continued.</blockquote>