You would think that the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a Texas senator would be either studiously neutral in the presidential race or (understandably) swayed by home-state loyalties. But Sen. John Cornyn, in an unusually candid interview with talk show host Laura Ingraham, let on that while he likes fellow Republican and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, he thinks, “He is entitled to some credit but not alone. There are other people who have been very instrumental in directing our state in the proper direction, George W. Bush, the Texas legislature, all of our elected leadership here.” At the tail end of the interview, he was asked whom he would like in the race. “Well, I like a lot of the names that have been mentioned . . . Chris Christie, Paul Ryan.” Asked if he’d tried to get Ryan into the race, Cornyn said he tried to get him to run for the Senate. He then said, “He is one of our stars. He’d be great.”
It’s not the first time Cornyn has been less than enthusiastic about Perry. In an interview before Perry announced his decision to run, Cornyn wasn’t very encouraging:
“The field is already pretty full,” Cornyn told reporters in a conference call . . . hours after Perry hinted at his interest in a presidential bid during a fundraising appearance in New York City.
“There have been a lot of people working at it for a number of years,” Cornyn added.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, has been pretty much at it ever since.
Cornyn said that Perry potentially has a strong case to make because he can tout the “Texas success story” that contrasts with Democratic-led states such as California “that are losing population because, frankly, they raise barriers to the job creators and make it harder to create jobs rather than easier.”
“Texas has a pretty simple formula that didn’t start with Governor Perry but he certainly has been out there leading to execute it and also to expand it,” Cornyn said.
Perry and Cornyn had their differences back in 2009. A Dallas TV report explained:
The sharp words escalated . . . among Texas’ top three Republican officeholders as Sen. John Cornyn slapped back at Gov. Rick Perry for “second-guessing” him and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison over their votes in favor of the financial bailout. . . . Cornyn said his support was based on a false promise from the Bush and Obama administrations on how the money would be spent. . . .
In the bruising fight for the Republican nomination for governor, Perry is attacking Hutchison’s support for the bailout.
On “Inside Texas Politics” . . . Hutchison, unlike Cornyn, said she would take back the vote.
“Of course it was a mistake, knowing what we know now,” she said.
But she said Perry backed the bailout, too, citing a letter he co-signed, which urged senators to pass an economic recovery package.
Perry said at a Dallas campaign event that he didn’t endorse the specific bailout, just a common-sense solution.
Cornyn’s decided lack of enthusiasm for Perry is perhaps understandable then. But it also points to the potential problems that Perry may have in reaching beyond the Tea Party base. Having railed against the “establishment” in the GOP, he may find it difficult to now turn around to solicit their support. It is therefore not surprising that his announcement was not greeted with any particular enthusiasm from elected officials, nor have donors rushed to greet him with open arms. (“Several lobbyists, who have been bundlers in previous campaigns, confirmed that they have been contacted by the campaign about supporting his candidacy and expect to meet with Perry later this month,” Politico reported. “However, few were ready to commit on the record to Perry’s campaign, citing the evolving Republican field.”)
Perry has no doubt cultivated support from movers and shaker in his own state. But it remains an open question whether his Texas swagger and careful cultivation of Tea Party rebels have left him short of allies elsewhere. We will find out in the weeks ahead.