“Daniels’ decision, coupled with [Mike] Huckabee’s and Newt’s [Gingrich] implosion, will create a tornado-size draft for Rick Perry,” predicted Mark McKinnon, a GOP media consultant who worked with President George W. Bush. “He’s tanned, rested and got nothing else to do for the next two years.”
Matt Dowd, who handled polling for Bush’s campaign, made a similar prediction on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “I actually think that Governor Perry in Texas is probably going to reconsider,” Dowd said.
And, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has been touting Perry’s “potential to light this up” of late.
Perry has repeatedly denied any interest in the job but history is filled with politicians — including the current occupant of the White House — who changed their minds about running for president.
So is Perry for president a possibility?
Let’s first outline the theory of the case for why people believe Perry could be a serious contender.
1. The GOP field is now entirely devoid of southerners — Gingrich is much more identified as a national figure than a Georgian — and politicians from that region have, as 538’s Nate Silver has shown, performed very well in modern Republican presidential primary races.
2. Perry was the first major elected official to attend a tea party rally, embracing the nascent movement when many establishment politicians were openly leery about being associated too closely with it. That gives him a baseline credibility with a group of people looking to exert their influence in the 2012 presidential race in the same way they did in the 2010 midterms.
3. As governor of Texas and the current chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Perry would start with a substantial and broad national fundraising base. In his 2010 re-election race, Perry raised more than $40 million while drubbing touted Democratic nominee Bill White by 13 points.
4. Unlike much of the rest of the country, Texas economy has weathered the economic recession relatively well. During the 2010 campaign, Perry ran heavily on his job creation record; in one ad, Perry boasted that the state had created 850,000 jobs during his time in office — more than every other state combined. (PolitiFact fact-checked the ad and found it to be “true”.) Many Republicans believe that record would provide a stark — and winning — contrast with how President Obama has handled the national economy over his first three years in office.
The case — on paper — is an appealing one. But, there’s lots of reasons to believe that Perry just isn’t running.
First and foremost, the critical players in Perry’s political world are working for another candidate in the race. Rob Johnson, who managed Perry’s 2010 race, and Perry political svengali Dave Carney are both signed on with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. (Asked about Perry and 2012, Carney emailed: “Nothing has changed.”)
“Could he do it?,” said Todd Olsen, a Texas Republican consultant. “Yes, but don’t think he wants to. Carney and Johnson going over to Newt is the surest sign Perry’s not running for anything but governor of Texas.”
Second, Perry has expressed not only a disinterest in running for a president but a disdain for Washington. “You won’t see me there,” Perry said about Washington in a 2009 New York Times profile. And late in 2010, Perry pledged to serve out his full four-year term; “I may not be alive in four years,” he said. “I plan on being alive and I plan on being the governor of Texas.”
And, Perry has built a career on the necessity of returning power to the states (he once seemed to threaten that Texas could secede from the union), a platform that might make it somewhat awkward for him to declare that he wants to come to the capital city to run the government.
Third, there is little evidence that Perry (or his close associates) are doing any serious behind-the-scenes to organize for a national campaign.
Real Clear Politics reported that some Perry confidantes have begun to make some preliminary calls about a bid but the Fix spoke with a number of people involved in the largely below-the-surface activities of the candidates for president and found that the Texas governor has done nothing that suggests any broader presidential plan.
There’s little question that space exists for Perry (or someone with a profile like his) in the race. As we have written before, the GOP nominee is likely to be the person who can best articulate the fiscal message of the tea party — a space that is, remarkably, vacant at the moment. (Daniels, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint all could have filled it had they decided to run.)
The tougher question to answer is whether the developments in the race have fundamentally changed enough for Perry to reconsider his past statements about his lack of interest in running for president.
At the moment, the answer to that question appears to be no.
Dan Balz contributed to this report.