Rick Perry Puts a Toe In

by Kevin D. Williamson

When Newt Gingrich’s campaign leadership departed en masse today, among their numbers were several high-powered  operators associated with Texas governor Rick Perry, a fact that has the Right abuzz about the possibility of a Perry presidential campaign. Some in Newt’s orbit have advised against reading too much about Perry into today’s news — “Never underestimate Newt’s ability to make people crazy” says one former staffer — but the general consensus in Austin is that Perry is in, or very close to it.

Skeptics who had pointed to the presence of key Perry political aides, including Dave Carney, on the Gingrich campaign are changing their tunes. One former Republican party official in Texas reports that all indications are that Perry is serious about a run. Another political operative explains that while the departure of Carney and campaign manager Rob Johnson from the Gingrich campaign “removes a complication,” it won’t be the deciding factor.

Perry has high-profile appearances scheduled in New Orleans and New York City. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he’s well positioned to raise money. “He certainly has his big toe, if not his whole foot, in the water,” one knowledgeable Austin source says.

As for Newt’s travails, two sources, independently of one another, pointed in the same direction: at Callista Gingrich. Newt is aggressive about involving his wife in many aspects of his operations, and it is not clear that she is entirely eager to be in that role or very good at it. Sources said Newt’s decision to interrupt his early-stage campaign work to go on a cruise with his wife was a factor in the departure of his campaign team. Some of Gingrich’s team felt that the boss was depriving the campaign of one of the most precious commodities for early-state primaries: time on the ground. Add to that the awful Tiffany’s story and other high-rolling accoutrements, and the third Mrs. Gingrich could end up being an even bigger campaign issue than she had to be. 

Why might conservatives like Perry? Find out here.