Governor Perry and the Republican Nomination: Is He Finished as a Candidate for President or Can He Come Back?

Governor Perry announced his intention to run for the Republican nomination for president on Saturday, August 13, 2012 in Charleston, South Carolina. His announcement was hailed as the start of what was to be an immensely successful campaign for the nomination and subsequently his election as President of the United States. Exactly two months later, most political observers would agree that Perry’s campaign has sunk dramatically, and many pundits, if not most, have now written him off as a certain loser. What happened?

Obviously, a number of things have happened, and probably the most important item was an almost total lack of preparation on the part of Perry. When he announced two months ago, his entry into the campaign was the result of an enormous level of pressure put on him by Republicans across the country who were totally dissatisfied with the then field of Republican candidates at that time. The view among leading conservative Republicans was that we had no leading conservative Republican leader with sufficient gravitas and experience to lead the Republican Party to victory against Barack Obama in 2012. These leaders looked to Rick Perry as the savior of the Republican Party and then urged him to enter the race. Not only did Perry not have enough time to prepare for such a huge undertaking, but he was enmeshed in a difficult legislative session with the Texas Legislature, and to make matters worse, he had to call a Special Session after the regular session of the Legislature failed to complete its required work.

Right after Perry’s entry into the race for the nomination, party leaders, pundits and conservative Republicans everywhere had the highest hopes for his success. He rose immediately in the polls almost to the top of the list, quickly knocking down the conservative leader at the time, Michele Bachmann. Unfortunately for Perry, he started to make startling political statements that caught the attention and the ire of the liberal media, and even some conservatives. His comments about Ben Bernanke’s actions being treasonous were not well received, and this was followed up with a disastrous initial debate appearance, where he appeared to be less than knowledgeable in a number of areas, and where he introduced his disastrous comments about Social Security being a Ponzi scheme. Moreover, his answers about giving in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens hurt his conservative credentials, and he started dropping in the polls almost immediately. Probably the worst aspect of Perry’s debate performances was that he appeared unprepared and unsure of himself. In addition, a number of side issues have occurred since the initial debates, including an offensive sign on a hunting lease and unfortunate remarks about Mormonism from one of his ardent supporters. All of this has resulted in Perry dropping from the mid 30’s in most polls in August to the mid teens in the latest polls just a short two months after he started his quest for the Republican nomination.

Now, the question is will Perry’s current position in the polls, his recurring political troubles and his continued subdued performances in the debates, shut down his chances for winning the Republican nomination for president. My answer is that, although Perry has been severely wounded by everything that has happened to him in the last two months, I think he can rebound and he can ultimately win the Republican nomination.

How can I possibly justify this position, with Mitt Romney doing so well in the debates and Herman Cain skyrocketing from almost last place to a leadership position in the national polls? To answer that question, one has to look carefully at certain facts that may have eluded many people. There are a number of facts that have become clear over the last six months of the Republican presidential campaign that need to be reviewed, including:

  • Mitt Romney started as the leader of the pack from the outset, primarily through name recognition. 
  • Mitt Romney has not risen much higher that 25% in any of the national polls, and has maintained that position for most of the campaign. 
  • Over time, various others have vied for second place in the campaign. First it was Donald Trump with his tough talk about our business dealings with China. 
  • Then it was followed by Michele Bachmann, with her strong performance in the first debate, and her win in the Ames straw poll. 
  • Then it was Rick Perry in second place prior to taking the lead. 
  • Then Perry was in the lead, followed by Mitt Romney. 
  • Then Perry dropped back to second place after the second bad debate performance. 
  • Then Herman Cain started to rise in the polls and is now in first place in the national polls 
  • Lastly, Friday, Rasmussen has it Cain 29%, Romney 29%, Gingrich 10% and Perry 9%

Clearly, Perry is at his all time low point. However, the above set of facts tells us something. There is a resistance on the part of the Republican electorate to push Romney into a significant lead. It seems that the conservatives, who will likely outnumber the moderates in the party, collectively won’t vote for Romney. They go from one conservative to the other, and each time the leading conservative is then put under more scrutiny by the other candidates and the media.

Will Herman Cain stay at the top with his famous 9 - 9 - 9 plan? I don’t think so. It’s already getting plenty of criticism as the voters get an inkling of what it will mean for them. Let’s take one of the larger groups of voters, the senior citizens. They generally don’t pay as much in income taxes, but they buy a lot of stuff. What do you think they will say about paying almost 18% sales tax on everything they buy in Texas, or 16% sales tax in Florida? Will the 9% income tax mean much to people who pay a small income tax anyway? Another problem with Cain’s 9% sales tax is the possibility of black markets opening up in response to huge sales taxes. Small operators buy up goods wholesale and sell them through outlets where the sales tax is not collected. That’s why Europe ultimately went to a Value Added Tax (VAT), which eliminates that problem, and that’s what would happen to Cain’s “last 9” in the 9-9-9 plan. Cain has big problems with the 9% business tax, which doesn’t allow for deductions for wages paid. How’s that going to increase employment? Lastly, Cain has a simple solution to the argument that future Congresses will simply raise his taxes from 9-9-9 to something like 19-19-19. He says that he will insist on a super majority in the bill to raise taxes. Sorry, short of a Balanced Budget Amendment, any Congress can change the rules and raise his 9’s to something substantially higher. Most of the VAT taxes in most European countries started small and have now risen above 20%. I think Cain will soon have big problems explaining the details and the effects of his 9-9-9- plan, and as he gets more scrutiny about his past activities, such as his recent statement that “I didn’t realize in 2005 that there was a housing bubble”. How long Cain will be the flavor of the month is anybody’s guess.

I see where Gingrich is starting to move up, and as soon as he gets into unsafe territory (which is above 15% in the polls), the guns will start to fire in his direction. He has remained unscathed in the debates so far, precisely because no one has considered him to be a threat. That has allowed him to wax eloquent and sound like the Party’s elder statesman, but like Cain, he has little money and a small organization for which to run a national campaign for President.

How does Perry Come Back and Win?

So, let’s get back to Rick Perry. So far, I have outlined all of his faults and troubles, and he is wallowing down in third or fourth place right now. One might suggest that he has nowhere to go but up. Remember, about 75% of all the votes will be conservative votes. If Romney does truly hit a resistance point at 25 or 30%, where will these conservative votes eventually go? Perry is better funded than all the rest of the candidates except Romney. He will be releasing specific plans for jobs and other issues as time goes on. He can get his message out via TV and other means, and he should get somewhat better at debating as the debating season continues. And it’s possible that the compressed campaign schedule may actually help him, since his money can buy lots of TV time in the important initial primary states.

Is it difficult to move up from third place in the national polls to winning the nomination? It’s probably worthwhile to remind everyone just where the national polls stood in 2007 with respect to the top contenders. On this date in 2007, the leader in the polls was Rudy Giuliani at 30%, followed by Fred Thompson at 20%, with John McCain in third place at 11%. We all know how the Republican nomination turned out in 2008. Third place in the national polls may not be such a bad place to be two months before the first primary contests.

I fully expect that Romney will win the New Hampshire primary as he has no real opposition there. The real question is who will win the Iowa Caucuses? Bachmann has faded, and Santorum and Gingrich have no money. The other real contender is Herman Cain, but he too has little money or organization, and I believe his signature economic plan will be discredited in the near future. So Perry could very well win the Iowa Caucuses as the only conservative left standing. My view is that Iowa is critical to Perry. Following Iowa is Nevada, and here is where Romney can use his money and his Mormon faith may well help him there. Still, I expect Perry to show strength and win delegates there, and he does have the endorsement of Nevada’s Governor, Brian Sandoval. The next two primaries are South Carolina and Florida. It is these two primaries that will make or break either Romney or Perry. Whoever wins both of these primaries will be the Republican nominee. If the vote is split here, then both Romney and Perry will slug it out for some time, with Perry being strong in the South and Romney having strength in the Northeast and the West.

None of this will happen for Perry if he can’t convince voters within the next two to three months that he can beat Obama. If Perry’s numbers against Obama are terrible, then all his money and organization will not help that much. However, if Perry and his campaign can begin to reset and show a real determination that they are serious about winning, then Perry’s candidacy can be revived.

Of course, I may be completely wrong on this. I am simply trying to present a case here as to why the Republican nomination is not really locked up at this point, even if the liberal media would like to be able to proclaim that it is settled for Romney. The liberal media would like nothing better than to engineer the nomination of Mitt Romney, and then turn on him as viciously as they did with John McCain in 2008.

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