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Rick Perry’s Iowa chairman quits: ‘Time to move on’

Former Texas governor Rick Perry (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Rick Perry, whose presidential campaign is struggling to raise money and is no longer paying its staff, lost his Iowa campaign chairman on Monday.

Sam Clovis, one of Iowa's most prominent conservatives who had been leading Perry's campaign in the state, confirmed in an interview that he had left the Perry campaign in part because he was no longer being compensated. He said he is in conversations to sign up with another Republican candidate.

"I feel bad for the campaign and I feel bad for Governor Perry because I think he’s a marvelous human being, he’s a great man and it was my honor to be a part of this, but it was just time to move on," said Clovis, who is a talk radio personality, professor and former U.S. Senate candidate.

News of Clovis's resignation was first reported by the Associated Press on Monday afternoon.

Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said in a statement: "Gov. Perry remains committed to competing in Iowa, as well as South Carolina and New Hampshire, and there are many people across the country who continue to work to elect Rick Perry as president. We wish Sam the best in his next endeavor."

Clovis said he has entertained entreaties from "several" rival campaigns in the two and a half weeks since Perry stopped paying his staff. He said he expects to sign on with a new candidate in the next few days. "I'm going to go where there's the best fit," he said.

When Clovis signed on with Perry, he said the "finalists" he considered were Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former technology executive Carly Fiorina and businessman Donald Trump. Cruz would be a natural candidate for Clovis to settle on, as would Trump, who has rocketed to the top of polls and is building a costly and aggressive ground campaign in Iowa

"It's been fascinating," Clovis said of Trump's rise, adding that he's so intrigued by Trump that he now watches MSNBC's "Morning Joe" each day and tries to sees his rallies live on television.

“What the hell else do you have to do on a Friday night except watch Donald Trump in a football stadium?" Clovis said, referencing last week's Trump rally in Mobile, Ala. "It was fascinating. It’s like watching NASCAR. You just can’t take your eyes off the cars.”

Earlier this month, Clovis described Trump as a force to be reckoned with. “I see them as a major threat to all the other campaigns because of the aggressiveness of their ground game,” he told The Washington Post. “You cannot swing a dead cat in Iowa and not hit a Trump person. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. . . . Every event we go to — the Boone County Eisenhower Social, the Black Hawk County Lincoln ­Dinner, the boots-and-barbecue down in Denison — the Trump people are everywhere with literature and T-shirts and signing people up."

[An Iowa surprise: Trump is actually trying to win]

When Clovis signed on in June as Perry's chairman -- effectively his top figurehead, organizer and surrogate across Iowa, which hosts the nation's first presidential caucuses -- he was effusive in his praise of the Texan. In a June interview with The Post, Clovis likened Perry to former president Ronald Reagan and singled out Perry's military experience.

"I'm a fighter pilot and I would fly his wing through the gates of hell," Clovis said. "I mean that from the bottom of my heart."

Fast forward two months: Clovis said Monday that his outlook on Perry's chances had dimmed considerably. Asked whether he foresaw Perry making it to the caucuses, expected in early February, Clovis said, "I don't know."

“I think he would make a great president, but I don’t know how you turn that around when you’re sitting there at one or two percent," Clovis said. "You’ve got to do well in the polls to get money and you’ve got to get money to do well in the polls. It’s that proverbial chicken and the egg."

Clovis added that Perry and other lower-tier candidates "will have to do a lot of soul searching over the next two or three weeks." He predicted that the Sept. 16 debate would set off a winnowing process for those candidates who do not make the top 10 and make the main debate stage.