Rick Perry is a Texan who boasts about how he shot a coyote during a morning jog. Rudy Giuliani is a New Yorker who has appeared before crowds in full drag as “Rudia.”
When it comes to political “bromances,” Perry and Giuliani rank high on the list of odd couples. Perry’s endorsement of Giuliani’s 2008 presidential run came as shock to many in the GOP, who wondered why such a robust social conservative was the first (and ultimately, only) Republican governor to endorse a candidate who is openly pro-abortion and favors gay rights. But that endorsement was no one-time incident, nor a flash in the pan. For over a decade, Perry and Giuliani have supported one another through a series of races, with endorsements, public statements, and fundraising assistance. Different they may be, but they are nothing if not committed.
As far back as 1999, Perry served as the honorary Texas chairman of Giuliani’s New York senatorial campaign. (The Texans for Giuliani invitation to a $1,000 per plate luncheon that Perry hosted employed this message: “We Texans need to ask ourselves how helpful do we think Hillary Rodham Clinton would be to the Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush if he were to become president?”) In both 2002 and 2006, Giuliani returned the favor, endorsing Perry’s gubernatorial runs. In the 2006 race — a difficult one for Perry, who would ultimately eke out a win with 39 percent of the vote, just enough to catapult him over the other candidates in the four-person race — Giuliani’s endorsement was well-utilized and undoubtedly useful. In addition to a radio spot featuring America’s mayor, the Perry campaign sent out a fundraising letter touting Giuliani’s endorsement of Perry as a “strong and determined leader.”
In 2005, Giuliani joined Texas law firm Bracewell & Patterson (re-named Bracewell & Giuliani), strengthening his ties to the Lone Star State — and to affluent Texas Republicans ripe for fundraising appeals. Two years later, he sought out Perry’s endorsement for his 2008 presidential run. He got it.
A Perry aide paraphrased how Perry explained his support for Giuliani this way: “We don’t agree on social issues, but Mayor Giuliani provided leadership during a time of crisis for the country.” To Perry, Giuliani was a figure who had stellar national-security credentials, a key issue for him.
After citing the importance of the War on Terror, Perry publicly explained his Giuliani endorsement by pointing to the former mayor of New York’s track record: “What I look for is results, and Rudy Giuliani is the individual who will give us the results that will make America safer, that will move our economy forward, that will put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court, that covers a host of issues that are important to me and I think a lot of my colleagues and Americans as well,” he enthusiastically told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade in fall, 2007.
In that interview, Perry brushed off the ideological differences between the two men. He noted that he and Giuliani had discussed some of the issues that divided them, and spent an “inordinate amount of time together over the course of the last six weeks talking about issues both on the phone and face to face.” Those discussion satisfied Perry. According to the Dallas Morning News, Perry told reporters that Giuliani had “assured [Perry] that in nominating Supreme Court justices and on other important issues, a Giuliani administration would serve the conservative cause.”
Perry’s pre-emptive attempt to acknowledge that — and explain why — he had endorsed a candidate whose views on social issues differed so markedly from his own did not soften the surprise. In the aftermath of the announcement, much of the media coverage centered on speculation that Perry was aiming at the second slot on the ticket. Perry shot that down forcefully, saying bluntly he wouldn’t consider the vice presidency, but rumors abounded nonetheless. The Dallas Morning News reported that the Perry political camp saw little choice other than Giuliani since “Mr. Thompson’s campaign has sputtered and Sen. John McCain of Arizona is a long-shot.” (The relationship between Romney and Perry, if not outright hostile, had been at least complicated since an incident at the 2002 Olympics where the Boy Scouts were not allowed to participate, something for which Perry criticized Romney.) But the disbelief persisted: In comparison to Perry, “Giuliani comes across like Michael Moore,” wrote Austin American-Statesman columnist John Kelso, comparing the duo to “Dick Cheney touring with the Dixie Chicks.”
Despite the controversy, Perry did not downplay his endorsement but instead became a more vocal supporter of Giuliani. He campaigned for him in South Carolina, and that fall went on a four-day sweep through Iowa. Talking to voters at a roundtable in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Perry made his pitch for Giuliani by striking a pragmatic tone: “ You can have your purist candidate,” he argued. But “if they can’t win, you just wasted your time.” The voters were not convinced. A Dallas Morning News headline summed up Perry’s success in Iowa: “Perry Wins over Voters — But Not for Giuliani. Iowans Like Messenger More than His Message.”
In December, Perry added to the tension with a slip of the tongue. Defending Giuliani’s pro-abortion stance by citing his promise to support strict constructionist judges, the Houston Chronicle reported Perry saying, “Then the issue becomes very, very clear to me from the standpoint of who I want to support, and it is Mike Huckabee.” When questioned about what he had just said, Perry immediately called the Huckabee mention an “error.” But it lead to another round of publicity: The Austin American-Statesman headline said Perry had “defended” his Huckabee mention as “un-Freudian,” planting an idea in voters’ minds unlikely to cheer the Giuliani campaign.
As Giuliani’s campaign fell into disarray, Perry kept fighting, doing a five-stop sweep in January through Florida introducing Giuliani at rallies. But it wasn’t enough, and, when the Guiliani campaign impoloded at the height of the 2008 primary season, Perry found himself without a candidate. In February, he endorsed McCain, employing unsentimental language: “He and I may not agree on every issue,” Perry said when announcing the new endorsement, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Guiliani’s presidential ambitions may have evaporated in the Florida sunshine, but his friendship with Rick Perry continues to this day. In the 2010 gubernatorial primary, Giuliani backed Perry over the more socially moderate Kay Bailey Hutchinson, even going so far as to go to Texas to campaign for his friend. And the two don’t limit their conversation exclusively to politics: Perry told a Dallas audience last year that Giuliani had offered to bet him a pair of Texas cowboy boots that the New York Yankees would beat the Texas Rangers in the upcoming round of playoffs leading up to the World Series. (Perry must have received his boots: The Rangers won the series, 4–2.)
Now, with the 2012 primary drawing near, and both men considered possible candidates, their comity remains. “Rick has got a great record, probably one of the strongest records of any governor in America, and one of the longest running governorships. Rick is a good friend,” Giuliani told CNN this July. Dave Carney, a top political adviser to Perry, told the Washington Post that same month that “Rudy would be an awesome asset to any campaign. Of course candidates matter to voters, but folks of the mayor’s stature bring lot of value added to any effort.”
And so the bromance continues.
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.