John Podhoretz is a good observer of politics, particularly when it comes to the Republican side of the aisle. You don't have to agree with his views to see the value of his observations. For that reason, it caught my attention when he commented on Twitter that "People should watch Rick Perry on Meet the Press -- and then they should not underrate his chances in 2016."
I watched Governor Perry on Meet the Press this past Sunday, and I agree with Podhoretz. Perry performed very well in his conversation with David Gregory and he didn't exude the sort of cocky Texas good-ole-boy attitude that backfired on him in his 2012 run. Also, the Jonathan Franzen glasses that Perry has started wearing recently do provide a bit of sophistication and gravitas in his appearance.
While I've written my share of snarky pieces about Perry's 2012 campaign and his chances in 2016, the fact is that Rick Perry shouldn't be discounted as a possible 2016 GOP nominee for president. As Governor of Texas, Perry has presided over a state that has lead the United States in job growth over recent years and those jobs are not all low-paying jobs. One can debate whether the economic prosperity of Texas has occurred as a result of or in spite of Perry's performance as governor (I would argue the latter), but this is not a weak talking point for Perry. It's easy to see Perry argue that the Obama jobs recovery is in many ways the Texas jobs recovery and he should be given at least some credit for that.
Furthermore, at a time when conservatives seem to be doing everything possible to alienate minorities, Perry can stake a claim as someone who has taken political heat for approaching the Latino community in a more conciliatory manner, particularly resulting from his support of in-state tuition at Texas public universities for the children of undocumented workers. It remains to be seen whether this is a plus for him in the 2016 GOP primary season (it certainly wasn't last time), but it is something that I think will be helpful for him in November of 2016 if he is the GOP nominee.
Perry faces two obvious problems. The first is the debacle that was his 2012 presidential campaign. He is addressing that in the best way he can, by stating that he agrees that it was a disaster and that America is a country of second chances. That approach may be the only approach he can take on that issue, but he isn't denying the problems of his past and he is facing them as best he can. F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous quote about there being no second acts in American lives has been disproven time and again, so much so that it probably ranks as one of the worst observations of all time. Perry is determined to disprove it for himself and it's easy to see him gaining some good will for that from the electorate.
His bigger problem is something that relates to his Texas base. In 2012, Perry could hope for the largely unanimous support of the Texas GOP money machine to back him up. That machine wasn't enough to save him and abandoned him after the infamous "oops" moment in the GOP presidential debates. But it still is a big machine. Unfortunately for Perry, it is a machine that will be approached by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush if either or both of them run for president. I think that factor is the biggest one against Perry right now and is the one that would be most likely to keep him out of the presidential race. Hope springs eternal among politicians but such hope can easily evaporate if no one comes to pay the bills. Right now, Perry's biggest job is to convince major Texas Republican donors to support him if he runs and that is no small task.
Rick Perry's catastrophic 2012 run has placed him out of the top ranks for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. He knows that and so does everyone else watching. But it hasn't eliminated him from contention, and Perry's natural political talents coupled with a few good breaks could place him back in the game. If he decides to run, he shouldn't be underestimated, particularly if his opponents stumble and he performs on the campaign trail in a manner that makes people forget his 2012 performance.