Texas Politics

Perry: Gone to South Carolina



I t seemed after Rick Perry finished fifth in Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses, with 10.3 percent, that he was taking himself out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. He all but said so that night.

But he said when he was jogging the next morning, it came to him that he should stay in. His wife and son also had told him he shouldn’t drop out.

So he didn’t.

Even though he went to New Hampshire for two debates over the weekend, he said he wasn’t going to compete in that state’s primary Jan. 10. When you’re polling in the 1 percent range, that was understandable.

But, as the Texas Tribune’s CEO Evan Smith said in a radio interview, he and lots of others were stunned when it seemed on the night of the Iowa primary that Perry dropped out – and just as stunned the next morning when he said he was still in.

Several theories have been put forth as to why he would do this.

1) He has nothing further to lose. He’s already embarrassed himself with his debate performances last year, and his number five finish in Iowa. So he might as well see if lightning might strike in the first southern primary in South Carolina Jan. 21.

The state is rich in conservatives, evangelicals and military, groups that presumably like Perry. His latest ad stresses faith, family, and his service in the Air Force.

His campaign communications director, Ray Sullivan, said Perry “is the only conservative candidate with the organization, conservative record and outsider credentials to shake up Washington and get our nation working again.”

2) The super PAC “Make Us Great Again,” run by his close friend and adviser and former chief of staff, lobbyist Mike Toomey, had put up almost 800 TV ads in South Carolina, just between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3.

That was more than all the other candidates and their super PACs combined for that period. Toomey’s corporate clients that fund the super PAC might wonder why they kicked in all that money if Perry was just going to throw in the towel.

3) Another motive hinted at is a backstairs deal with Mitt Romney, strange as it may seem.

Romney presumably would benefit by having Perry there as one more candidate to split the un-Romney vote in South Carolina, and perhaps Florida Jan. 31, taking some that otherwise might go to Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich.

4) It may just be that Perry, 61, realizes that this is probably his last presidential rodeo, so he might as well ride it on out. He’s never lost a race for public office, and perhaps that streak will continue.

So far, the Texas governor has been fortunate that none of the others have run negative ads about him. It’s not that they’re making nice; he’s been so far down that it would be a waste of their money.

However, if Perry should start to climb, look for the guns to be trained on him and his record as governor.

Just as Gov. Perry is bashing congress, calling it overpaid and underworked, and saying should be made a part-time job, like Texas state legislators, it’s revealed that he is claiming retirement pay of more than $92,000 a year – while continuing to be paid about $133,000 as Texas’ longestserving governor.

Yes, the guy who told Texans to tighten their belts, including cutting public education spending by $4 billion of what had been promised, is now drawing down a total annual compensation of around $224,000 — while living in a house that taxpayers rent for him at about $10,000 a month. That’s while running for president accompanied by a large security detail, costing Texas taxpayers about $400,000 a month. Perry’s the only Republican presidential candidate with a taxpayer-sponsored security detail.

Another interesting do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do development is that the same Rick Perry who has carried the banner for states’ rights filed a suit in federal court challenging Virginia’s requirements to get on its primary ballot as too onerous.

This came after Perry’s 11,000-plus petition signatures did not pass muster with the state’s requirement that candidates have 10,000 valid signatures of registered voters, including at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts.

Mister Small-Government Ron Paul managed to get the signatures to qualify, as did Mister Position-Shifter Mitt Romney.

Perry is probably right that the Virginia hurdles are too high, and some other candidates have joined the suit. But it’s ironic that Mister States’ Rights would be asking for the hated federal government’s to force Virginia to let him on its ballot. DAVE McNEELY is political columnist. You may contact him at davemcneely111@gmail.com or (c edd512)458-2963.

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