Asked by Fox News's Sean Hannity on Monday night why he'd chosen to suspend his presidential campaign, former Texas governor Rick Perry offered a few reasons. For one thing, he'd failed to make the main debate stage at the Aug. 6 debate, he said, which "had a very negative on our fundraising through the summer."
But Perry mentioned that second. The first thing he mentioned was his 2014 indictment for abuse of official capacity.
"We knew early on that there were two things that we had to take care of," Perry told Hannity. "One of those was the indictment. This indictment by the Travis County district attorney's office, this drunk D.A. that had used this office, we think, for political purposes. Did the same thing to [former House majority leader] Tom DeLay. Lasted 10 years and had a real corrosive effect on our ability to raise money."
(For those who don’t follow Texas politics closely, the “drunk D.A." reference is to Rosemary Lehmberg, convicted of drunken driving in 2013.)
It's certainly possible that the indictment hurt his ability to raise money. But it didn't keep him from being able to raise $1 million in the month of June -- more than was raised by Bobby Jindal or Rick Santorum. It's about $600,000 less than what Carly Fiorina raised -- but she started a month earlier. And it didn't prevent him from having big donors contribute nearly $13 million to PACs supporting him. That was one of the largest outside fundraising totals of any Republican candidate. Ben Carson's campaign and supporters had $11 million to spend; Perry's team had almost $14 million.
But what's more, there's no evidence that anyone cared about Perry's indictment -- at all.
Perry's poll numbers started to slip shortly after he announced his candidacy. Compared to the Republican front-runner -- who for most of the past 90 days was Donald Trump -- Perry went from 3.2 percent down to 0.8 percent in the Real Clear Politics polling average since mid-June. (Which, of course, is why he didn't make the main debate stage.)
That happened despite people searching for his name on Google relatively frequently. In late June, he generated a lot of attention when he referred to the Charleston, S.C., shooting as an "accident," meaning to say "incident." He got a spike in attention again at the time of the first Republican debate, and then, last week, when he dropped out. (Google Trend data, the yellow bars below, show search interest on a scale from 0 to 100 -- on the right vertical axis -- where 100 is the most searches for Perry in that time period.)
There's no clear link between how much interest people had in searching for Perry and how much they were willing to support him in the polls.
But maybe that's because people were searching for information about Perry's indictment. So let's compare his poll numbers with searches for "perry indictment," which seems like the sort of thing people wanting more information about the indictment might search. Search interest (relative to searches for "Rick Perry") are shown in blue below.
Hmm. None at all.
Okay. Well maybe they were searching for "perry arrest?" Indictment is tricky to spell, after all. Below, searches for "perry arrest" are in green.
Maybe the problem was not that the indictment -- out of his control! -- dampened voter support and fundraising. Maybe the problem was that Perry had a shot in 2012, and missed it.
That plus the debate thing.