Perry's Actions Suggest a Serious Look at 2012

Perry's Actions Suggest a Serious Look at 2012

By Erin McPike - May 18, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry may say publicly that he's not interested in running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but his actions suggest something different.

After RealClearPolitics broke the news Tuesday that Perry's aides quietly have begun to make inquiries on the governor's behalf as he contemplates a bid, reporters attending his speech before a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Dallas noticed a few interesting things. Chief among them, as CNN reported, was that Perry said the GOP field is not yet settled and described the ideal candidate as someone who sounded . . . exactly like himself.

Republican strategists in Washington told RealClearPolitics that GOP operatives who attended Perry's speech Tuesday afternoon called them with reactions ranging from "This guy should be our nominee" to "He wowed the crowd." They said he ditched his notes and spoke extemporaneously, firing away.

The Washington Times went so far as to report that the reaction to Perry was so unusually good from a wide array of attendees at the meeting that there is already discussion of a draft movement under way.

Then, there's this: National Journal observed that Perry took a shot at the current Republican front-runner, Mitt Romney, for the health care plan he devised for Massachusetts in 2006. Perry is far from the only Republican to pile on for that. This latest attack, however, suggests that Perry, who would appeal to the conservative wing of the GOP as well as those looking for a trained and tested big-state governor, has his eye on a prime target.

For one thing, Romney's front-runner status is becoming solidified as more potential candidates choose not to run, but the party is still looking for an alternative. And Perry has begun to demonstrate that he wants to be the new brand for the Republican Party.

Of course, there's a lot more to it than that. Romney and Perry aren't exactly friendly. In fact, political aides aware of past interactions between the pair of well-coiffed men put it this way: "That relationship is dead."

When Romney was chair of the Republican Governors Association (a position, incidentally, Perry holds now) in 2006, Perry appealed to him for more campaign cash for his re-election. Perry was going through a strange and difficult to predict four-way race, fending off Democrat Chris Bell and independents Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn. Perry did not like what he heard from Romney, who, while sketching out a 2008 presidential bid, was getting criticism from other candidates for spending too much time helping out Jim Nussle in Iowa and Kerry Healey in his home state of Massachusetts. Romney denied Perry's entreaties, and they found themselves in a yelling match.

Machismo over doling out money is nothing new to the RGA when its leaders are eyeing presidential runs. Mitch Daniels, for example, asked then-finance chairman Haley Barbour in 2008 if he could have more cash because then-Sen. Barack Obama was spending so much in Indiana, and Daniels needed to look after his own gubernatorial re-election. Barbour responded, "Mitch, we don't buy landslides," and the comment put a temporary strain on their relationship. 

The RGA chairmanship itself underscores why Perry's moves should not be taken lightly. Consider the lineup: In 2006, Romney had the job. In 2009, then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford held it when he was thinking about running for president, but he was replaced by Mississippi's Barbour after Sanford admitted to an extramarital affair. Barbour was also considering a presidential run, as was then-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who became vice chair.

Perry followed Barbour into the top job this year, but the role is not new to him. He is reprising it after holding the job in 2008. That means Perry is in his second stint as chair of the campaign committee within three years -- and that gives him plenty of access to all of the national donors he would need to finance a presidential bid.


Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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