Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry will launch his second bid for the White House on Thursday and seek to put his disastrous showing in the 2012 Republican presidential contest behind him.
Perry will hit the launch button from the Addison Airport outside of Dallas, where he’ll be flanked by current and former service members in a bid to set himself apart as one of the few candidates in the GOP field with military experience.
He teased that official announcement Thursday morning by unveiling his new presidential website and launch video.
He faces long odds and will have to overcome deep skepticism from many Republicans who still harbor questions about his political skills on the national stage.
In 2012, Perry stampeded into the GOP primaries with a highly-anticipated, last-minute entrance. He immediately moved to the top of the pack and raised enormous sums of money in a year when many Republicans were hungry for any alternative to eventual nominee Mitt Romney.
But Perry’s campaign was ultimately defined by a handful of gaffes, including one mortifying moment on the debate stage when he was reduced to uttering the word “oops” after failing to recall one of the federal agencies he had pledged to eliminate.
“Here’s someone who has a successful state story to tell, and yet his primary challenge will be to work through that awful moment he had in the debates the last time around,” said David Winston, a Republican pollster who worked on Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign.
“This is where the debates will be critical for him,” Winston said. “He’ll have to stand up there in a competitive situation and deliver his viewpoints in such a way that people look at his last time and say, ‘everyone has one bad moment.' ”
To do that, first Perry will have to qualify for the debates — not an easy task. Fox News and CNN have capped the number of candidates for their first debates at 10 based on national polling numbers.
Perry will be the 10th Republican to enter the race, although the field is expected to swell to about 15. He’s currently in 10th place nationally, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, taking 2.3 percent.
He trails businessman Donald Trump, and holds only a slim lead over a group of dark-horse candidates, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.).
Despite weeks of campaigning in the early voting states — he’s made more trips to Iowa this year than any other GOP candidate — Perry is in 11th place in both Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in the GOP nominating process.
Still, some Republicans believe Perry is underestimated.
“He actually has a better message than some of the mid-tier candidates,” said David Payne, a Republican strategist. “If he can avoid the obvious faux pas and distinguish himself based on his experience and economic record, he can be viable and edge some of these others out.”
Perry has acknowledged that he overestimated his political skills in 2012, and admitted that he entered the race unprepared to deal with the rigors of a national campaign. He says that he’s spent the years since then boning-up on the issues and readying himself for a comeback.
Perry has since sought to refashion himself as a foreign policy expert, and has impressed Republicans and energized crowds with high-octane speeches full of hawkish rhetoric and sharp critiques of the Obama administration’s policies in Iraq, Iran and Russia.
“Clearly he thinks that’s become a strength of his,” said Winston. “It’s one area where governors are typically criticized for not having much experience, so he’s taken steps to address that question. It’s part of trying to make himself a complete package.”
The message dovetails nicely with Perry’s intent to highlight his military service.
After making his presidential announcement with retired Marines, Navy SEALs and Medal of Honor recipients at his side, Perry will participate in Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) “Roast and Ride” in Iowa.
His guests there will include a half-dozen other current and former military men and women, including Taya Kyle, the widow of Chris Kyle, of “American Sniper” fame. Perry will ride a motorcycle belonging to a military veteran who lost his arms and legs while serving in Afghanistan.
But Republicans say Perry’s strongest message pertains to his 14 years running the state of Texas.
Perry has long boasted that Texas has been among the leaders in job creation under his watch, and he frequently bolsters his arguments on immigration reform by pointing to his experience running a border state.
Still, Perry faces a far more daunting political climate in 2016. This time around, he won’t even have the sole claim to money and political resources in the Lone Star State.
Perry will be competing directly with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has a significant lead over him in the polls, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), both of whom have ties to Texas and have spent time there in the early stages of the campaign.
“His 2012 campaign proved he didn’t have the necessary preparation, polish or style to impress on the national stage,” said Payne. “It’s possible now that he’s learned lessons from that. He has a decent political team and appears more ready for prime-time, but the big question is whether in a crowded and strong field of candidates there will be enough room or oxygen for him to play.”
— Ben Kamisar contributed to this report, which was originally published on June 3 at 4:58 p.m.