Perry had begun organizing “The Response” — as the event was known — long before he started to entertain the possibility of running for president.
But with Perry now widely assumed to be a candidate in the not-too-distant future, a small(ish) crowd or a weak — or too heavily political — performance by the governor would assuredly have subjected him to criticism.
Instead, the crowd at Reliant Stadium was estimated at 30,000 — not too shabby — and Perry played a largely behind-the-scenes role in the event.
Mark McKinnon, a Texas-based Republican consultant unaligned in the 2012 presidential race, called the event “a pretty bold move for a guy about to throw his hat in the ring,” adding: “There were so many ways the event could have gone wrong ... it came off pretty smoothly overall.”
Perry and his advisers largely downplayed any political implications from “The Response.”
“(God’s) agenda is not a political agenda, His agenda is a salvation agenda,” Perry said at one point during the gathering. “He’s wise enough not to be affiliated with any political party,” Perry said at another point.
Dave Carney, Perry’s top political strategist, acknowledged that he “never was quite sure how it would unfold,” but that “it went very well.” As to how “The Response” might influence Perry’s 2012 prospects? “It really has no impact on our planning,” Carney said.
But, just because Perry and his team weren’t willing to address what “The Response” might mean for his candidacy doesn’t mean we can’t. Here are three things we learned about Perry from “The Response”:
1. He can draw a crowd: With the second major presidential debate AND the Ames Straw poll set for later this week, Perry is going to be left out of a lot of the 2012 talk since he’s not a candidate yet. But what “The Response” proved is Perry is a draw — he’s got star power that the rest of the field (with the exception of Michele Bachmann and occasionally Mitt Romney) lack. And that matters in a presidential primary, particularly when you are starting as late in the process as Perry.
2. He can give a speech: No, Perry didn’t speak for a long time Saturday. (Here’s the longer of his remarks.) But, when he did speak, Perry knew his audience — staying away from politics and focusing on the purely religious aspects of the gathering. (That religious focus and the fact that only Christian religious leaders were invited drew criticism to Perry and protesters outside the event.) While his accent and plain-spoken speaking style may not play everywhere in the country — cough, New Hampshire, cough — it should work well for him on the stump in Iowa and South Carolina.
3. He is an evangelical Christian: Yes, we already knew this about Perry. But what we really mean here is that his performance at “The Response” convinced us that, if he runs, he will be regarded as of the evangelical movement rather than simply another politician trying to win their votes. In the 2008 campaign, evangelicals saw former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee as one of them and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as someone trying to win their votes. (And, we know how that turned out in Iowa and South Carolina.) “This is who Perry is, and I think he’s proud to wear the badge,” said McKinnon of the Texas governor’s evangelical bona fides. “And for a guy starting late in the GOP primaries, this is a great audience and good way to get the party started.”
To be clear, organizing a prayer gathering in your home state isn’t the same thing as winning votes in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. And Perry remains unproven as a candidate on the national stage.
But, the response to “The Response” keeps up the buzz surrounding Perry and likely ensures he will be considered a top-tier candidate if and when he does decide to run.
Geithner finds few friends: It was announced Sunday that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would stay on in his current role until after the election, and the move was met with silence by Democrats and scorn by Republicans.
Geithner, of course, is under increasing pressure after Standard and Poor’s on Friday downgraded the U.S.’s credit from AAA to AA+.
This weekend, several Republicans have called for Geithner to be fired, including Bachmann and Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock. Look for more to jump on-board in short order.
David Axelrod, an adviser to President Obama, meanwhile said that the tea party was to blame for the downgrade.
Romney donor revealed: The mystery donor who gave $1 million through an apparent shell company to a pro-Romney super PAC has been revealed as a former executive at Bain Capital, where Romney made his fortune.
Edward Conard has long been a Romney supporter and told Politico that he felt his contribution to the Restore Our Future PAC followed the rules of the law.
But watchdog groups are still calling for federal authorities to look into the donation, which was made through a company that appeared to do nothing besides make the donation and was later closed.
A radio host in New Hampshire who interviewed Bachmann also happens to be on her payroll. He said he didn’t become her New Hampshire campaign chairman until after the interview.
Tim Pawlenty continues his attacks on Bachmann, comparing her to Obama circa 2008.
Pawlenty may not be standing on firm ground as he criticizes Romney on the individual mandate.
Two TV stations in Reno, Nev., have pulled GOP special election candidate Mark Amodei’s (R) ad, citing unsubstantiated claims against Democratic candidate Kate Marshall.
Former Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D), who nearly beat then-Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in a primary last year, may challenge freshman Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.)
“Jon Huntsman 2012: New Hampshire will bring him back, Republican presidential candidate vows” — Jon Ward, Huffington Post
“The origins of the debt limit showdown” — Brady Dennis, Alex MacGillis and Lori Montgomery, Washington Post
“Kansas City lawmakers face voters” — Robert Barnes and Stephanie McCrummen, Washington Post
“Rep. Steve Israel rebuilds Democratic coffers ahead of 2012 election with ‘bagel diplomacy’” — Alison Gendar, New York Daily News