Bobby Cervantes of the Houston Chronicle observes, “When former Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday formally enters the race, he will begin an uphill slog to reach the top tier. The magic number, as it’s been reported, is 10. Only the top 10 contenders based on the average of national polls will be allowed to participate in what has become a gateway event in the process.” Ironically for a candidate who doomed his own chances in the debates in 2012, entry into the first debate in August 2016 is the first step in an improbable comeback.
He is now 10th in the RealClearPolitics polling, but more recently he placed eighth in the CNN poll. Meanwhile, he is getting strong reviews in Iowa for his retail politicking skills. Unfortunately, it is the national polls that will determine the first debate lineup.
There is reason to believe Perry can keep some momentum going for the next couple of months and thereafter get some footing in Iowa. Here’s why:
1. While Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are presently ahead of him in the RCP average, neither is doing well. GOP voters are especially averse to Trump, who may well wind up not running.
2. His hawkish foreign policy stance and military background provide him an effective avenue to challenge lightly credentialed candidates and certainly to bash Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
3. His pitch for an experienced governor not named “Bush” over freshman senators has appeal.
4. He has a record he can compare favorably with other candidates. Watch for him to start contrasting his own record on jobs, border security and fighting D.C. mandates and regulations with competitors. The Perry team is confident that when the records are laid out side by side, Perry will have the upper hand.
5. Iowa is ideally suited to him. His background as a cotton farmer and good standing with both evangelical Christians and fiscal conservatives will help him.
6. He has no day job. He can spend endless time in early states and in TV interviews.
7. Expectations are low in most quarters, which makes, for example, a finish in the top five in Iowa a”win” for him.
8. Likewise, his debate performance — assuming he makes the first one — can turn heads if, as he has shown over the past few months, he displays a grasp of the issues.
Perry and Carly Fiorina have both been performing better than expected, in large part because they have figured out an anti-Washington message that is equally effective with tea party and non-tea party types. Perry’s announcement and the polling that follows will be critical to his continued success, but don’t be surprised to see him in the Aug. 6 debate, taking shots at first-timers. He has had four years to think about 2012 and prepare to prove his critics wrong.