Rick Perry, right, debates Mitt Romney in 2012 (Chris Carlson/Associated Press) Rick Perry, right, debates Mitt Romney in 2012 (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

Does Texas Gov. Rick Perry deserve another look by Republican know-it-alls? Speaking as something of a know-it-all myself, I’m not sure. Many of us were first exposed to Perry when, as lieutenant governor of Texas, he assumed the governorship in December 2000, after George W. Bush was elected president. For whatever reason, Bush loyalists in Washington viciously belittled Perry. The antipathy the Bush crowd had for Perry in 2001 cannot be understated. I deferred to my Bush allies and piled on the criticism of Gov. Perry whenever I could. And I still see the occasional quote or TV clip from him that makes my eyes roll and reinforces my original bias.

Anyway, for many in the GOP, the success of Texas as an economic model for other states has been decoupled from Perry’s stewardship as governor. But 14 years as a governor is a long time. He deserves some credit. His viability as a presidential candidate in 2016 also deserves a fair examination in the months ahead. Read what Scott Conroy from Real Clear Politics has to say about it.

Recently, Perry has turned heads by beating expectations. Importantly, Perry came to the recent Conservative Political Action Conference armed with more than just homilies and clunky cliches. Even if this was the result of good staff work, it means Perry is listening to some good staff. And on Tuesday, he appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” as the show aired from the South by Southwest festival in Austin — and he wasn’t a buffoon! A lot of GOP voters want their nominee to be able to hold their own in pop culture forums. Many Republicans are tired of explaining and apologizing for our nominees and leaders being out of the loop. We’re tired of our leaders not being sufficiently confident, nimble or able to do cameos or perform well in other youth-oriented venues. Anyway, Perry’s performance on Jimmy Kimmel was solid. He came onstage to boos and he departed to applause. Good for him. That should be one of the tests for every GOP candidate in 2016.

Perry is still vulnerable to being picked off by a geopolitical quiz, a mangled name or some blooper that cements his negative stereotype. But in the pre-pre-pre-pre-game, Perry looks like a serious contender. No less than former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour — who knows Perry well — says, “Perry’s record as governor outweighs his performance in the previous presidential campaign. He has to be considered as a serious candidate for president.”

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