To not run for president at this point, Rick Perry has to really not want to run for president. There’s a gaping opening for him in the race. Pawlenty had a tough week. Bachmann has stolen whatever thunder he had, and now you have to think the Iowa straw poll in August could be a real threat to Pawlenty–if he doesn’t have a strong finish there, it could threaten the viability of his candidacy. Meanwhile, Bachmann is already surging and it’d be surprising if she’s not leading in Iowa very soon. But running from the House and having no executive experience–even if she runs a flawless campaign–will be drags on her over time. Thus the opening for Perry: he could potentially eclipse Pawlenty as an establishment alternative to Romney at the same time he eats into Bachmann’s Tea Party support as a limited-government conservative with a record of getting it done. Plus, there’s no Southerner in the race except Newt, who doesn’t quite count. Perry would have challenges as a general election candidate–another Texas governor? really–but he’s got a Texas-sized opportunity in the nominating contest.
by Rich Lowry