Time’s Mark Halperin reported yesterday that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is bringing in two nationally known GOP insiders, Nelson Warfield and Curt Anderson, to help turn around his ailing campaign. Halperin writes, “In some ways, the Texan’s original, relatively small team had been overwhelmed by the demands of getting a campaign up and running.” Other hires are expected. One name mentioned is another GOP operative, Tony Fabrizio, who worked with Warfield on Bob Dole’s presidential campaign. A partner of Anderson’s, Brad Todd at the OnMessage Inc. GOP consulting firm, may join the campaign as well.
It is hardly surprising that Perry has decided to shake up his campaign staff. (For some time Right Turn has suggested a major overhaul of Perry’s campaign would be in order.) A GOP operative told me last night, “I had heard about a week ago that there was a move to get rid of Dave Carney. This was almost 100% predictable given the collapse of the Perry campaign. Plus, when Perry was deciding if he should run, Carney had made assurances to him that he could do very well in New Hampshire.” Perry is now in the low single digits there. Carney is expected to remain on the campaign but plainly has lost his perch as the top campaign guru. (I asked the Perry campaign for comment this morning; there was no response as of the time of this posting.)
More changes are also expected in the campaign’s communications operations. A GOP consultant with prior presidential experience tells me that the Perry team is looking for press staff “all over place but got no takers.”
Another Republican insider sniffs: “In my experience, these kinds of panicked moves never end well.” He added, “Since [Perry] entered this race, he has lost everything he entered — every straw poll, every debate. They need a different candidate but they can’t get that so they throw out the old team and cobble together a new one.” With a new staff, that theory will be put to the test.
To a large degree, this confirms criticisms of Perry that his current staff has ill-served him and not adequately prepared him for debates, interviews and press scrutiny. Perry’s original staff seemed not to appreciate that running for president was a fundamentally different task than running for reelection in a deep red state. While the decision to bring in new blood is hardly a shock, the timing is surprising.
The house-cleaning comes just before Perry’s major policy rollout Tuesday, and to a large extent, will dominate political coverage. Why release the news now? Well, given a choice between being overshadowed by a staff shakeup and having the press focus on Perry’s bizarre interview on birtherism and secession, I suppose the former seems preferable. Interestingly, the shakeup follows Perry’s meetings with K Street lobbyists, an effort to staunch concern about his campaign. It may have been essential for Perry to demonstrate swiftly that he understands the campaign’s dire straits and is willing to shove aside even longtime aides to get his campaign on track.
Warfield was Bob Dole’s press secretary in his 1996 presidential campaign, and he acquired a reputation for a sharp tongue and pointed humor. Interestingly, in that capacity Warfield led the attack on Steve Forbes’s flat tax. Forbes is now a Perry adviser, and a flat tax will be part of Perry’s policy initiative unveiled Tuesday. Back in 1996, the Dole campaign criticized a flat tax as a “soak the middle class” plan that would increase the deficit. Presumably, that experience will help Warfield fend off attacks on the flat tax plan Forbes developed for Perry.
Warfield also spent time on the ill-fated Fred Thompson 2008 presidential campaign. He joined in June 2007 and jumped off the sinking ship in October. More recently, Warfield worked on Rick Scott’s successful Florida gubernatorial campaign, during which the candidate used the illegal immigration issue to savage primary opponent Bill McCullough. Warfield is well regarded and liked in Republican circles.
Anderson was a close adviser to former Republican National Committee chief Michael Steele but quit during one of Steele’s many staff shuffles. He also previously worked as Haley Barbour’s political director at the RNC. Anderson was on Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign but was not part of the 2012 team. In what now seems like an audition for the job, he defended Perry’s “cowboy” persona in a Politico piece against GOP “elites.” (It is the overdose of Texas bravado that has concerned many donors and early Perry supporters.)
Conservative blogger Stacy McCain took a swipe at that column:
Anderson’s polling/PR/strategy firm is based inside the Beltway, in Alexandria, Virginia, and lists among its clients the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican Governors Association. Anderson is former political director of the RNC, worked on the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004, and also worked on Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign.
So if you’re looking for a grassroots anti-elitist who courageously stands up to the GOP Establishment, then obviously Curt Anderson’s your man.
Indeed, Perry’s decision to bring on somewhat stodgy GOP veterans (a young Republican operative calls Warfield “a relic”) cuts against the anti-Washington rhetoric Perry has been bantering about. But the time for charging Ben Bernanke with treasonous behavior and calling D.C. a ”seedy” place have long passed.
If the former Tea Party favorite wants to plug the hole in his leaky boat, he’ll need plenty of help from the Beltway set. Perry’s campaign has occasionally seemed more like a gubernatorial campaign for governor. Now he has limited time to convince Republican voters that Perry is not just a good ole Texas boy but a credible and prepared contender for the presidency. Perry and his new crew of advisers have got their work cut out for them. The Iowa caucuses, for which Perry is polling in single digits, are 11 weeks from Tuesday.