Is Perry eying White House?

Is Perry eying White House?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is just weeks away from leaving office after more than a decade running Texas — and he is turning his eye beyond the Lone Star State as he looks to kick-start another presidential bid.

Perry will leave the governor's mansion after 14 years on Jan. 20. Just a few days later, he'll be in Iowa participating in the state’s first major candidate event of the 2016 campaign. It’s the latest stop in a heavy travel schedule as he edges toward a second run at the White House.

Perry and his allies are the first to admit that he faces a tall task in overcoming voters’ memories of his dismal 2012 campaign. But they’re convinced that this time around he’s much better prepared, and that leaving office will give him much more time to focus on a potential campaign.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Our greatest enemy in 2011 was time. Our greatest asset in 2015 and 2016 is time. Hopefully now we'll have the time to do this right if he and Mrs. Perry choose to do it,” Bob Haus, Perry’s top Iowa advisor, told The Hill.

“It's going to free up a lot more of his time than having to actually govern 24-7. That was one of the issues in 2011 and 2012. He was trying to run for the highest office in the country as a sitting governor,” said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. 

Perry has made a concerted effort to repair his image after the 2012 fiasco. He has met with conservatives who are influential on a variety of topics from foreign affairs to monetary policy, and has traversed the country lobbying for Texas and backing other GOP candidates.

He also spent a heavy chunk of time in Iowa during last year’s midterms’ campaign, earning praise from some local Republican power players who had been critical of his previous run. And he emerged as a leading critic of the Obama administration during last summer’s border problems, a stance that made him a hero with some of the hard-line border hawks who had hammered him for his immigration views in 2012.

But he still has a lot of work to do if he’s going to be taken seriously. His allies say he’s planning to spend a lot of time in early-voting Iowa and South Carolina to win over activists one by one.

His Jan. 24 speech in Des Moines at the high-profile event organized by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and the conservative group Citizens United will be “very important for him,” according to one Perry ally.

It will give him a chance to shine on a big stage and go toe-to-toe with some of his potential GOP rivals including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Dr. Ben Carson.

Perry supporters say the goal is not necessarily to be the star of the event, but to leave a strong impression.

“He's got to be part of the post-summit buzz in a very positive way, he has to show he's really serious this time about throwing his hat in the ring,” said Iowa state Sen. David Johnson (R), who backed Perry’s 2012 campaign.

Most allies and political experts expect Perry to run. But he may not be as quick to the fray as some have predicted. Advisors say he’s likely to make a decision by mid-year, and only after he gets a clear impression of how he’s received on the campaign trail.

Perry is also looking to make some money.

“He's not a wealthy person and he hopes to make a little bit of money while he's not in office… something that also allows him to do the traveling and speaking,” said one Perry advisor.

Perry and his wife are building a six-bedroom house on a ten-acre lot near Round Top, between Austin and Houston. He is also planning to set up some private-sector work once he’s out of office. (Because of Texas ethics laws, Perry is limited in his ability to pursue work until his term officially ends.)

If he does run, Iowa strategists say he has a real shot at redemption — and perhaps a strong enough finish to put him in position to make a run at the nomination. He had one of the highest favorability ratings of all likely candidates among Iowa GOP voters in an October Des Moines Register survey. His 64 percent approval rating was bested only by 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

But likability doesn’t necessarily mean support. Perry drew 7 percent in that poll, good for a sixth-place tie in a field of 16 potential candidates.

“Iowans believe in second chances and they also believe in governors who are job creators, both of which will play well into a Perry campaign,” said Iowa Republican strategist Tim Albrecht.  

“They're going to give him a fair shake like everyone, and with his lowered expectations if he can come here and run a superior campaign to the one he ran last time, that's a perfect storm of opportunity for him.”