According to two sources familiar with the plan, the Texas governor will remove any doubt about his White House intentions during his appearance at a RedState conference in Charleston.
It’s uncertain whether Saturday will mark a formal declaration, but [Rick] Perry’s decision to disclose his intentions the same day as the Ames straw poll — and then hours later make his first trip to New Hampshire — will send shock waves through the race and upend whatever results come out of the straw poll.
Immediately following his speech in South Carolina, Perry will make his New Hampshire debut at a house party at the Portsmouth-area home of a state representative, Pamela Tucker, the Union Leader reported Monday. Tucker was among the Granite Staters who went to Texas last week to encourage Perry to run.
The timing is clever, if not surprising to Right Turn and others who predicted Perry would step on the Ames straw poll winner’s news. It is a riskier choice, however, than waiting until Sunday or Monday to announce. Iowans are temperamental when it comes to their state’s status in the primary process; They might not look kindly on Perry trying to horn in on “their” day.
That is not to say that Perry hasn’t been priming the pump in Iowa. Politico reported recently: “A new so-called super PAC supporting a prospective Rick Perry presidential campaign is going up Monday in Iowa with a statewide television buy touting the Texas governor as “a better option” for president. Jobs for Iowa is spending less than $40,000 for two week’s worth of air time on Fox News Channel in the state, a source familiar with the group told POLITICO. But the group is rumored to have the backing of wealthy Texas Republicans who have long supported Perry and are considering expanding the ad campaign to other states in the near future.”
And Perry has been staffing up in Iowa. Last month we learned: “Americans for Rick Perry — a 527 group that is prohibited from having direct contact with the Texas governor — is set to open its headquarters in West Des Moines this week under a lease that will run through the Aug. 13 Ames Straw Poll. The Iowa branch of the pro-Perry group is composed of a few volunteers and seven paid staffers, most of whom played key roles in former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Iowa operation before resigning as a group last month amid differences with the candidate over the direction of his struggling campaign.”
As we know from the Tim Pawlenty campaign, once you signal that you are playing in a state it will be hard to lower expectations. In Perry’s case the risk is that he is trying too hard, too late and may stumble in the Iowa caucuses. Perhaps that is why he is starting out his announcement tour in South Carolina.
Perry will have three challenges off the bat. First, he will need, to borrow a phrase, to “pivot” to jobs. He’s spent a great deal of attention on social issues, but his biggest advantage may be his economic record in Texas.
Second, he’s going to need to de-Texas himself a bit. He shouldn’t change his accent or his views, but he does need to change his rhetoric. As Texas governor it was fine to let lose lines like, “We are very proud of our Texas history; people discuss and debate the issues of can we break ourselves into five states, can we secede, a lot of interesting things that I’m sure Oklahoma and Pennsylvania would love to be able to say about their states, but the fact is, they can’t because they’re not Texas.” That’s not going to go over well in Oklahoma or Pennsylvania, or much anyplace else.
And finally, it is an open question whether he is prepared for the avalanche of policy questions and attacks from the media and opponents. All of them have been staffing up, defining positions and thinking about national issues for months (or, in some cases, years). He will conveniently miss the debate in Iowa this Thursday, but Perry by September will need to stand on the stage with much more experienced presidential candidates.
We don’t know whether Perry will zap Rep. Michele Bachmann’s strength, or the reverse. We don’t know whether he’ll eat into Mitt Romney’s lead or whether Romney will prove himself the candidate with broader appeal. Perry may be this year’s Fred Thompson or 2000’s George W. Bush. We’ll have have to wait and see.