Back in May, I wrote a piece here at the Huffington Post where I said that Rick Perry shouldn't be discounted as a candidate for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 2016 and that a few good breaks could put him back in the game. Well, while one may debate whether or not Perry has received those good breaks yet, he is definitely back in the game.
Perry has been all over the media lately, particularly as a result of the situation on the U.S. border involving undocumented minors, mostly from Central America, who are crossing into the U.S. via Mexico. Perry, depending on who you ask, has either taken leadership on or demagogued the issue of these migrants. In either case, this has put him back in the public eye. As Kate Nocera wrote at BuzzFeed, "the border crisis has been very good for Rick Perry," and GOP political players have been giving Perry a second look as a result of it. Nocera writes:
But, they add, it does give him the chance to change the subject from his "oops" moments and remind people why they thought he had a good shot before his 2012 dreams were derailed... One Republican operative close to Perry in Texas, who said he could not speak on the record, said that in a setting where Perry feels comfortable with an issue, "people love his ass."
Presumably that operative was speaking figuratively. Furthermore, Perry took on Senator Rand Paul, a likely opponent for the GOP nomination in 2016, in a Washington Post opinion article critiquing Paul's foreign policy positions. This is important not just from a personal political jockeying standpoint but because Paul has presented himself as a libertarian alternative to the sort of foreign policy and corresponding domestic surveillance policy prescriptions that former President George W. Bush championed. Perry has never really differentiated himself from President Bush regarding such policies and as such, Paul is someone that poses an ideological as well as a personal challenge to Perry if Perry wants to remain in the forefront of GOP politics when he leaves office as Governor of Texas in early 2015. Perry's Washington Post piece is a necessary act for him if he wants to challenge Paul, either directly or indirectly, for leadership of the Republican Party.
All that having been said, everything hasn't been great for Perry when it comes to recent publicity. Perry became an Internet meme last week when a photo of him meeting with President Obama to discuss the border migration issue displayed him with a rather grim, "Grumpy-Cat"-like countenance while President Obama was laughing amiably. Also, Perry in his own words "stepped in it" when he compared homosexuality to alcoholism in a speech in San Francisco. Admittedly (and unfortunately) that viewpoint may not hurt him with many socially conservative Republican voters. But it isn't the sort of rhetoric that appeals to more sophisticated voters, at least some of whom he needs to win over in a general election.
It's still very early in the 2016 presidential season. The midterm elections of 2014 haven't happened yet and Perry has to worry about other Texas politicians stealing his thunder, particularly Senator Ted Cruz. But Perry is giving every indication that he is not going to simply disappear when he leaves office as Texas governor and he is conducting himself in exactly the manner that someone running for president would. Whether people like it or not, Rick Perry is coming back to national GOP politics, to the extent he ever really left.