Rick Perry might well owe Wendy Davis a thank you card one day.

The pitched battle over abortion law in Texas has thrust the longtime Republican governor back into the center of the political universe with social conservatives squarely in his corner. All in all, it's not a bad place for him to be right now.

(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Here's why.

Perry hasn't announced whether he will run for reelection yet. If he decides to pursue a fourth full term, he would do so on the heels of the current abortion fight with renewed credibility among conservative voters who wield major clout in Texas.

Yes, Perry and his Republican colleagues suffered an embarrassing setback last week when Davis, a Democratic state senator, successfully stymied a bill to tighten abortion restrictions. But Perry's swift call for a new session to reconsider the bill and his provocative rhetoric in recent days has made him the face of the social conservative movement in Texas right now. And the more heat he faces from the left, the better his brand will be on the right. Just ask Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who survived a 2012 recall attempt and vocal protests a year earlier en route to becoming a conservative hero.

Perry had originally intended to make his 2014 plans known by July 1, but opted to delay because of the special legislative session. A bid for another term may sound like a long-shot; after all, Perry is already the longest serving governor in state history, having taken office late in 2000. And Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) has appeared to be gearing up for a run at the top job, raising money and positioning himself well ahead of a possible bid.

The protests that have seized the legislature in recent days have given conservatives a reason to rally behind Perry, who is leading the charge to pass the abortion bill. And that could translate to strong support in a Republican primary, the race that matters most in the ruby red state.

Perry, if nothing else, has been hard to read throughout his career. He ran for reelection in 2010 when some expected him to step aside. And he was a late entrant into the 2012 presidential race even after he repeatedly denied any interest in running.

Even if Perry chooses not to run for another term, he clearly wants to stay in the political conversation. Outside of Texas, he's mostly known for the disastrous presidential campaign he waged after entering the race to much fanfare. Despite that, he hasn't shut the door on a 2016 White House bid.

It would indeed be a long-shot effort, considering Perry's hard-to-erase missteps last cycle, most notably his inability to name the third government agency he would eliminate as president. But emerging triumphant from a high-profile abortion battle -- as he is expected to do -- gives Perry a platform to stand on that didn't exist several months ago.

Simply, voters like to see candidates who are willing to fight for the causes they believe in. And Perry's eager challenge of Davis and the protesters who support her is just the kind of thing that could breathe new life into his political career.


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