Here is the Rick Perry comeback plan: Wow voters with specific jobs-policy proposals, and then charm them, one handshake at a time.
When Perry skyrocketed in the polls after entering the race, he did so thanks to his reputation of being a conservative governor who had an astounding job-creation record to tout in our era of persistently high unemployment. But after several debate missteps (most notably, saying that those who disagreed with him on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants had no heart) and a relentless barrage of attacks from the Romney campaign that highlighted his flirtation with dramatically changing the Social Security system in his book Fed Up!, Perry has sunk in the polls rapidly in recent weeks. In three major polls released this week, he was in fourth place.
But his campaign is adamant that the Texas governor — who has never lost an election — will be able to claw his way back up in the polls by frequently visiting early primary states and gradually rolling out a series of economic proposals targeted at promoting job creation.
“Debates are one aspect of the political process, but people in the states want to meet the governor,” says Perry spokesman Mark Miner. “They want to hear him firsthand, not filtered through the circus of a debate.”
Perry, Miner says, is “at his best” when doing retail politics. “He resonates with people,” Miner adds. The campaign intends to utilize that through regular trips to early primary states, with Perry doing town halls with voters. The candidate was in Iowa last weekend, is returning today, and will be back again next weekend. There is also an organizational push: “We have staff and grassroots organization in key early-primary states that are going to be active, and they’ll be running a vigorous campaign in each of those early-primary states,” Miner says.
That marks one notable difference between Perry and Herman Cain. Cain has soared to the top of the polls this week, but prior to this surge, there was little indication that Cain was building up significant campaign infrastructure and organization in the early states.
In today’s speech, Perry outlined his plan to create 1.2 million jobs by issuing executive orders as president that would “expand energy exploration offshore and on federal and private lands across the country.” In a speech to be given toward the end of month in South Carolina, Perry will introduce more job-creation initiatives. But don’t expect the campaign to release an extensive jobs plan to rival Mitt Romney’s 160-page tome anytime soon. “Putting a bunch of pages in a glossy book doesn’t create one job,” Miner says. “The governor will be outlining, through a series of policy initiatives, a comprehensive approach to improving our economy and creating jobs.”
One advantage Perry has is financial. He raised $17 million this quarter to Romney’s $14 million. And while the two candidates reported about the same amount of cash on hand ($15 million for Perry, $14.6 million for Romney), Romney has also already burned through about $17 million. The other candidates trail significantly behind. Neither Cain nor Michele Bachmann has yet announced their third-quarter receipts, but it’s expected that Ron Paul (who raised $8 million this quarter) will easily maintain his position as the third-highest-raising candidate behind Romney and Perry.
While the Washington pundits have begun buzzing about the inevitability of a Romney nomination, the Perry campaign remains confident that Romney is vulnerable. “Mitt Romney has been stuck for the last six years,” a Perry aide says. “He’s the one that has a credibility issue with Republican primary voters.”
Then, too, there is the belief that after nearly three decades of winning elections, Perry is not about to encounter failure for the first time this cycle.
“He’s been underestimated before, been counted out before,” Miner says. “And every time, he’s proven them wrong.”
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO reporter.