Is Texas Gov. Rick Perry “sitting pretty” for 2016 as one journalist put it, or is another presidential run likely to be a flop, a campaign that barely gets off the ground? At the Conservative Political Action Conference gathering last month, Perry showed that he can still deliver a stem-winder. And at a Fort Hood news conference after the shooting, he showed the maturity and calm that voters will look for in a presidential contender:
“There aren’t any easy answers to what occurred here, and there’s no way to wish away the suffering that’s occurring. Right now today, millions of Texans and millions of Americans are praying for these men and women, are praying for our soldiers, are praying for our first responders, are praying for this community. Unfortunately, this is the second time we’ve had to deal with a tragedy on this post, but you still see it in the eyes of the people that you meet. You see it in the handshake that they give you, the strength of these people. They’ll recover. They’ll recover from this latest tragedy.”
Here are 10 reasons we shouldn’t discount him:
1. In fairness, his back surgery, the ensuing medication and pain, plus the lack of preparation, seem to have played a big role in his troubles in 2012. He is healthy now and that alone should result in an improved outing. Like Jeb Bush, he will not hold public office during his potential presidential run, freeing him up to travel and set his own agenda.
2. Having run once, he has an advantage over virtually every other contender (save Mike Huckabee). Even a VP run does not prepare one for the physical strain, media glare and tiny room for error.
3. In comparison with more extreme and downright wacky voices in the party, he will seem sober and mature by comparison. (The glasses help, very candidly.)
4. He’s got a record virtually no candidate can match in job creation.
5. He is the only likely candidate with a military background. He has traveled and thought seriously about foreign policy.
6. He’s conservative enough for the far right, yet he was elected four times (albeit in a conservative state).
7. He is not too lenient for the primary nor too inflexible for the general election when it comes to immigration. He favored in 2012 more border enforcement but also in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants.
8. He knows he did poorly in 2012 and has every reason to show others that the real Rick Perry is not the guy they saw in 2012.
9. To the extent energy is a big issue – and it should be part of any conservative’s pro-growth agenda – he has expertise other candidates lack and the scars from battling with the Environmental Protection Agency.
10. He is an outsider, but not too outside. Certainly his skepticism about Washington is no secret, but he believes in good governance as evidenced by his opposition to the shutdown.
Perry will have to convince voters that he’s up for the job, but then every candidate will have that task. Most challenging perhaps is the need for him to create a message and an agenda that integrates his success as governor and to address a reform agenda on education, health care, taxes and energy. Conservative journalist and former congressional candidate Quin Hillyer writes, “I saw this firsthand last year when I ran in a special election for Congress . . . [that] voters showed a real hunger for creative conservatism.” GOP contenders can’t offer simply a critique of the left, hoping that will win over non-Republicans. “Reform, combined with compassion rightly understood, wins converts,” Hillyer explains.
In short, in a field this open a widely known governor with a strong economic record has as much chance as anyone. In addition to proper preparation, however, he’ll need an agenda that fits the needs of the country and the party.