June 8, 2015

The New and Improved Rick Perry

Rick Perry by Gage Skidmore 9Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ran for president in 2012. It may be difficult for some to recall, but his campaign started out quite strong. According to CNN, he led the pack with 29% support from Republicans and right-leaning independent voters within a week of entering the race (Romney was in third place with 17%). Perry's candidacy generated considerable buzz, and he appeared to be a serious candidate. He certainly had the over-the-top Christian rhetoric down required to appeal to Republican primary voters. Most of the analysts agreed that he had done some good things in Texas and had a compelling story on which to run. And then, as you will undoubtedly remember quite well, Gov. Perry's campaign would soon fall apart in a spectacular manner that is still being lampooned by comedians.

What most will remember is Gov. Perry's embarrassing performance during the Republican primary debates. This was not his only mistake, but it was the big one from which he would not be able to recover. After 8 years of George W. Bush, the prospect of having another moron from Texas in office was more than most voters could stomach. And based on his performance in the debates, Perry appeared to be just such a moron. Of course, absolutely none of this was his fault.

Gov. Perry is back now, recently entering the 2016 race after many concluded that his political career was over. What will be different this time? Everything. Have you seen Gov. Perry's new glasses? Clearly, he is no longer a moron. He is now a serious and thoughtful candidate who is fully capable of leading our country.

Perry's biggest assets, aside from his miraculous increase in intelligence, appear to be his military service, the fact that he has not participated in cutting defense spending, the manner in which he has been able to distance himself from Bush foreign policy, and the performance of Texas' economy during his years as governor. Perry's biggest liability? Well, he has been indicted on felony charges (i.e., abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant) that carry a maximum sentence of 109 years in prison. Other liabilities, at least for the general election, could include Gov. Perry's unusual beliefs about the U.S. Constitution or his anti-LGBT bigotry.

Gov. Perry seems to recognize that the biggest liability he needs to overcome is probably his 2012 campaign itself. As Manny Fernandez wrote in a recent article for The Washington Post,
In the years since, Mr. Perry has worked at retooling and sharpening both his image and his political chops, making frequent trips to early voting states, meeting with influential policy experts, attending the World Economic Forum in 2014 in Switzerland and even making two cosmetic changes — donning hipster-style black-rimmed eyeglasses and trading his cowboy boots for black loafers.
Will the new and improved Rick Perry appeal to Republican primary voters this time around? Will he be granted a second chance in an already crowded field? Time will tell. Personally, I'm still hoping that Donald Trump enters the race.