Rick Perry Had His Chance in 2012. Republicans Aren't Likely To Give Him Another.

by Perry Bacon Jr. /  / Updated 

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Republicans essentially begged then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run for president in 2011, with conservatives in particular galvanized around him as an alternative to Mitt Romney. Once in the race, he ran one of the worst campaigns in recent memory, blundering in debates so badly that he didn’t win a single primary in what was considered a very weak field.

In subtle but obvious ways, the Republican Party has given a signal to Perry: he will not be getting a second chance. Donors and key party figures who supported Perry in 2012 have lined up between ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. With the rise of Sen. Ted Cruz, Perry may not even be the most popular Republican presidential candidate from Texas.

Perry has opted to run anyway. A second campaign will give Perry, who had a successful tenure as governor of Texas, a chance to rehabilitate his national reputation, even if he does not become the GOP nominee.

And his basic appeal from 2012 remains. Texas had huge job growth under Perry, although that may have been more due to an energy boom in the state than his policies. That gives him appeal with more moderate, business-oriented conservatives. And his strong opposition to Obamacare and pushes to limit the power of the federal government will connect with Tea Party conservatives.

He and Lindsey Graham are the only candidates in the GOP field who have military service, and Perry hopes to highlight his credentials as an Air Force veteran. At his announcement, he’ll be joined by high-profile combat veterans including “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell and the widow of Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL portrayed in “American Sniper.”

And his supporters note out that Perry is one of the most charismatic politicians in the field, which will help with the retail politics so crucial to states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Perry has visited Iowa more than any other candidate since November 2012, logging over 50 stops in the caucus state.

But Perry is not likely to become the favorite of any wing of the GOP. Iowa Republicans (Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee), evangelicals (Huckabee, Santorum, Ted Cruz), Tea Party conservatives (Cruz, Rand Paul), libertarians (Paul) and Republicans focused on finding an electable person (Bush, Rubio, Walker) all have a candidate or two with stronger appeals to them than Perry.

Perry's debate flub from the 2011 campaign, when he was unable to recall the three agencies he was promising to close if elected president (Commerce, Education and Energy), remains a huge barrier. There are worries among Republicans that if they nominate Perry he could have another "oops" moment in a debate during the general election and essentially hand the presidency to Hillary Clinton.

Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain and Romney were all defeated in their initial attempts to become the GOP nominee but won in later campaigns. But Perry just ran a much worse first campaign than any those five men. Republicans are simply unlikely to tap him over the other governors in the race, such as Bush, Walker and Ohio. Gov. John Kasich.

Finally, Perry was indicted last year on charges of abusing his power because he threatened to defund Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg's office unless she resigned. Lehmberg had plead guilty to drunken driving.

Republicans and even some Democrats have said the charges have little merit, arguing Perry was indicted for making a political decision. The former governor has pushed for the dismissal of the charges.

If Perry was put on trial and convicted, that would obviously end any possibility of him being elected president. But there is almost no chance of that anyway.

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