The situation in Austin suggests that a Texas icon may be shifting his focus from state to national politics. Governor Rick Perry seems increasingly unlikely to run for reelection — and increasingly interested in taking another gander at the presidency.
He alluded to an interest in the White House back in March, and Texans close to Perry have told National Review that he’s strongly considering a presidential run. David Carney, who was Perry’s top adviser during his 2012 presidential bid, tells me that “there’s no question” that Perry is seriously weighing the prospect of a 2016 run; it’s not just talk. That said, at this point it’s also not a whole lot more than talk, either. And before the governor decides whether he wants to be president, he has to figure out whether he wants to be governor again. He’s said he’ll announce his gubernatorial intentions next month, after the Texas legislative session has wrapped up. And he told The Shark Tank, a Florida political blog, that he’ll announce whether or not he has presidential intentions sometime after that.
Also significant is the absence of a Perry right-hand man. In the past, the governor leaned on David Carney for guidance. But he’s no longer on Perry’s team, and a source tells me that that role hasn’t been filled. It’s a vacancy that’s unacceptable if the governor has a bid for statewide office imminent. All these problems are fixable, of course — Perry could find a new top adviser, hire campaign staff, and amp up his fundraising — and they don’t preclude a gubernatorial run. But they do suggest that said run is far from guaranteed.
Another factor is that Abbott and Perry have a gentleman’s agreement — at least, so says the governor — that they won’t run against each other. The two are friendly and like-minded, so don’t expect a bruising primary between them. It’s probably going to be one or the other, and recent activity suggests that Abbott is the one.
The consultant adds that Perry probably thinks that one shortcoming of his last bid was entering the race too late, and that he won’t want to make that mistake this time around.
But who knows? It’s Rick Perry, and he’s not a devout believer in conventional political wisdom. And though it may seem far-fetched (and far-out) right now, there’s a case to be made to conservatives for Perry 2016. Ray Sullivan, a Texas Republican operative who worked on a number of Perry’s campaigns and handled communications for his presidential bid, says Republicans shouldn’t write him off.
“If Republican voters in Texas or in the rest of the country are looking for a model of effective limited government and job creation, Rick Perry has to be on that list of likely candidates,” he tells me.
Rick Perry 2016: It’s not inconceivable.
— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.