Rick Perry 4Ever?

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Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News' editorial board took a look at the possibility that Rick Perry will run again in 2014. Let's flesh out the piece and discuss.

Perry showed he could raise money and little else [in his presidential run]. By the end, January, he had devolved into something of a national laughingstock, his effort down to a single word: “Oops.”

Back home in Texas, Perry reached for relevancy in the Republicans' U.S. Senate primary. He went all-in for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, which didn't turn out so well for Dewhurst. From almost nowhere, former Solicitor General Ted Cruz rode a tea party wave to win the nomination.

…Perry has never been seen as more vulnerable. His presidential campaign embarrassed many of his supporters, especially some influential Texans. By backing Dewhurst over Cruz, Perry chilled relations with some in a tea party base so essential to his wins over Kay Bailey Hutchison and Democrat Bill White in 2010.

Texas Republicans don't seem to give a damn what Perry thinks anymore – at least when provided with a credible alternative. Dewhurst should have easily won that race by defending the record Perry defended in 2010. But he couldn't – and that may be due in part to a newly negative perception of the Perry years.

Perry did make a national joke out of himself, but not just for looking stupid. Remember that he couldn't effectively defend Texas's economy or immigration policies to meet Republican standards. Perry's campaign was not just the excision of any notion that Rick Perry is intelligent, it was also the downfall of public perception of Texas as a magical place immune to bad things.

To understand how far Perry has fallen from Texans' graces, look at these poll numbers from Public Policy Polling. Only 19 percent of Texans want Perry to run for president again, and only 29 percent want him to run for governor again. That's not just low; that's disastrous.

Perry raised nearly $2 million in the first six months of this year, refilling Texans for Rick Perry to about $3.3 million.

Yeah, Perry's been refilling his PAC coffers. The Houston Press gave three possible reasons for this, two of which I offer here and expand upon.

One, he could be preparing for another gubernatorial run. Since bowing out of the presidential race, Perry has been hinting hard at running again for governor and/or president. Raising a lot of money now also works to thin out the 2014 field. This is a guy looking for some retribution after the primary, and he's got a huge ego as it is. A final gubernatorial term could be just what he needs to feel good about sailing off into the limelight. Or, it could be what he feels he needs to run for president again in 2016 – which would be one of the worst decisions ever.

Two, Perry could be preserving his political power. “Even on the outside chance Perry decides not to run for governor again, he needs to at least bluff like he will,” HP's Terrence McCoy explains. Raising an impressive amount of PAC money is (unfortunately) a great way for Perry to maintain his ability to influence people during his remaining years as governor.

Barring another Texas miracle, the state Democratic Party is far from rousing itself to a standing position. That leaves it to Texas Republicans to decide if they want to turn Governor-for-Life from dismissive irony to effective fact.

It's hard to argue this one – at least for now. Texas Democrats are on the right track, and have been hitting hard and effectively on everything from Akin to the crazy Lubbock judge. They're also looking at some strong pickup opportunity in House races across the state. However, it is unlikely 2014 will be the year Democrats take back the Governor's mansion. It is up to the Republicans – who don't seem all that impressed with Rick Perry right now.

And what could he do to get them back? The state already lost its lawsuit against Obamacare and is losing its Republican-led fight to stop people from voting. The next legislative session will likely feature more devastating, deeply unpopular education cuts and further advances in Perry's war on women – hardly something to run on.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has banked about $14.5 million and could see this election as his one best chance. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert fell far short in the Senate race but did begin building statewide name ID. Could there be another Gov. Bush – George P. this time – in Texas' future?

Or is there another Ted Cruz type, who cuts an unexpected swath?

Abbott's going to run, and he's going to have a very good chance at winning. He's not a good fundraiser himself, and Texas Republicans are apparently in the mood for lawyers who fight for ridiculous conservative causes. Abbott's that guy, and like Cruz, he may be new but not too new, and thus in a sweet spot. Leppert is perceived and comes across as a big-city moderate and marched twice in Dallas' gay pride parade. It's over; no chance for him.

If Perry runs again, he'd be making a huge gamble. He'll either pull out an unlikely victory and have as much momentum as is left for him, or he'll be kicked out of politics in even deeper shame than he is now. This decision might not be difficult for Rick Perry, who has no shame, to make. And that might be his biggest problem.

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About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

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