The doors might symbolize a presidential campaign still in the making, barely two months old but already seen by its critics as needing a makeover. To Perry’s supporters, the old concrete vault could represent one of the campaign’s biggest assets, the $17 million Perry brought in during his first 49 days as a candidate. To his doubters, the vault could be seen as evidence of a campaign that has fallen short of early expectations and is already operating from a bunker.
Dave Carney, the campaign’s chief strategist, has nothing but disdain for the negative analysis of Perry’s prospects that has been emanating from the political commentariat back east, but he knows it is up to Perry and the campaign to change it.
“The media narrative is not helpful,” he said Friday afternoon. “But the reality is that message matters more than chatter. We need to get our message out there, and we need to do better in every aspect.”
The narrative he refers to says that Perry peaked shortly after he got into the race and has been such a disappointment in debates that he will have trouble reviving his hopes for the Republican nomination. Carney isn’t buying it. “We are right on plan where we planned to be,” he said.
What he means is that in terms of money raised, organizations in place in early-voting states and policy proposals in the pipeline, everything is on track. Perry’s advisers believe that the governor’s performance in last week’s Washington Post-Bloomberg debate in New Hampshire was more than passable. His poll numbers might have have fallen dramatically, but advisers contend that current polls have little meaning. “They are Polaroids,” Carney said.
On Thursday, Perry’s wife, Anita, said her husband has been “brutalized” by his opponents and the media, in part because of his Christian faith. It has been, she said, “a rough month.” In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Perry said he didn’t disagree with his wife.
Campaign officials say Anita Perry was honestly voicing her feelings about her husband’s treatment, but they do not suggest that what he has been through has been unfair or out of bounds.
“If someone can’t take a punch, this is not the right business,” campaign press secretary Mark Miner said. “He’s proven he can take them and throw them. This is part of the process. Debates are part of the process. Retail campaigning is part of the process. Fundraising is part of the process. And sometimes, taking a punch is part of the process. You move forward.”
Some things have surprised campaign officials. One is that Perry has come under such fire on immigration. Advisers had assumed that Perry’s record dealing with border issues would satisfy immigration hard-liners. But they underestimated how his support for a Texas law that provides in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants — if they have lived in the state three years and graduated from high school — would undermine his conservative bona fides.