Rumblings: Perry 2012?

by Kevin D. Williamson

There’s been a bit of buzz about the possibility of Texas governor Rick Perry getting into the 2012 presidential race, mostly because he’s been making some phone calls to Iowa. Perry says that the Iowa outreach is part of his work as head of the Republican Governors Association, and, as much as I’d like to see him in the race, I think that’s probably (almost) all there is to it (at the moment). If Perry starts showing up at truck stops in New Hampshire on a regular basis, I’ll reconsider.

The main piece of evidence against a nascent Perry candidacy is the presence of Dave Carney, his chief political adviser, in the Gingrich campaign. It’s unlikely that Carney would be working on somebody else’s campaign, with Perry’s blessings, if Perry were getting serious about a 2012 run. For what it is worth, I have not found one knowledgeable person in Austin who thinks that Perry is serious about running for president.

As I’ve written, there are all sorts of good reasons that Perry would make an outstanding 2012 candidate, and a couple of reasons why he wouldn’t. Conservatives holding out for something more invigorating than the rather bland options currently on offer had probably better get ready to hold their noses. (And, in truth, the current crop isn’t all that bad; my chief objection to Mitch Daniels is that I am not confident he’d win. But I could be wrong about that.) There’s a lot at stake in 2012, and my guess is that the Republican Powers that Be see the race as likely to be a choice between a boring win and an exciting loss. Perry is not boring — anything but — but his main attraction for me (and, I suspect, to others) is his mulish insistence on budgetary sobriety and his ability to articulate the necessary limitations on government’s scope. “Why is government so big in Washington, D.C.?” he asks. “Why is it as big as it is in Texas?”

A governor who asks that question about a state with no income tax and a legislature that meets for a few months every other year has obvious charms for limited-government conservatives, and his robust interpretation of federalism is very much of a piece with the national mood at the moment.

In other Texas news . . .

The Lone Star State is picking up four House seats. One of my least-favorite members of Congress, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, (D., Berkeley-on-the-Colorado) looks set to be wiped out by the subsequent redistricting. Excellent news.

The other Texas race that should be on conservatives’ radar is the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose ill-fated campaign to oust Perry was a welcome testament to how little clout the Bush machine actually wields in Texas. The most probable candidates are lieutenant governor David Dewhurst, a go-along/get-along party man with a gazillion dollars in the bank, former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, and Ted Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, a charismatic, intellectually serious conservative. On the subject of Ted Cruz, as on many subjects, everything you really need to know has been said by Jay Nordlinger.

Dewhurst is not officially in the race yet, but his personal wealth and his position make him the most powerful factor. He would be a very difficult candidate to beat in the Senate primary, but he almost certainly is also considering a run for governor in 2014. My thinking is that if Texas Republicans want another Hutchison-style Establishment Republican, they already have one: Sen. John Cornyn. Would it be too much for one of the most reliably Republican states in the country to elect one conservative to the Senate?  

UPDATE: Rush wants to draft Perry, too.