In announcing his decision not to seek a fourth term on Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry left the door wide open to a presidential bid in 2016.
Perry said he would “pray and reflect and work to determine my own future path,” adding later: ”Any future considerations I will announce in due time … I will arrive at that decision appropriately.” (Is it possible to arrive at such a decision inappropriately?)
He shouldn’t run in 2016. And there’s lots of reasons why.
1. Perry proved during the 2012 campaign that he was simply not able to navigate the double-dare-like obstacle course that is running for president in the modern era. He entered the race in August 2011 as a co-frontrunner (at worst); little did we know then that his first day in the contest was also his best day. This awesome chart from the Texas Tribune, which details Perry’s standing in polling over the course of his 2012 campaign, tells that story quite clearly:
Perry struggled at debates — a mainstay of running for president these days — from the start and punctuated that difficulty with his inability to recall the third federal agency he would eliminate if elected president. Perry was also an unsteady presence on the campaign trail, struggling to make the leap from Texas to the national stage.
2. The 2016 field isn’t the 2012 field. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s quite clear that the 2012 Republican presidential primary field was one of the weakest in recent memory. Perry was able to enter the race so late and with so much momentum because Republican voters didn’t like any of their options — up to and very much including front-running former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. (A sign of the weakness of the field? Rick Santorum, a former senator who had lost his bid for re-election by 18 points in 2006, wound up as the Romney runner-up.)
The potential 2016 field is WAY stronger — even if a few of the most-mentioned names take a pass on running. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie are all stronger candidates — on paper at least — than anyone (including Romney) in the 2012 field.
And, not only would the field be far stronger but Perry also wouldn’t benefit from the fresh-face factor that worked to his advantage in the 2012 race. In fact, he would have to prove to the Republican political world why he was running again and why this time would be different and/or better.
3. The Perry band has broken up. As Politico’s Alex Burns noted in a piece in late March, many of the people who comprised Perry’s political inner circle have dispersed and it seems very unlikely he could get them all back together for what would be — no matter what you think of Perry — a far longer-shot bid than in 2012.
One of Perry’s (seeming) strengths during the 2012 race was that he had a group of longtime loyalists who knew him as a politician (and a person) inside and out. He wouldn’t have anywhere near that same sort of team if he ran again in 2016 and he might struggle to lure top talent that hadn’t previously been affiliated with him due to what is widely viewed as his disappointing 2012 campaign.
It’s understandable why Perry who, like most politicians, has a healthy self-regard, would be drawn to another run for president. He clearly believes he didn’t put his best foot forward in 2012 and wants to redeem himself with a bit of national experience under his belt.
But, politics is all about timing. Perry’s timing in 2012 was perfect — and he still swung and missed. That’s a hard lesson but one Perry would do well to remember as he mulls his next political move.