With thirteen days having past since the Texas Senate GOP runoff, a confab of media outlets have emerged with stories surrounding Governor Rick Perry. Not Ted Cruz. Not David Dewhurst. Rick Perry.
Though they may disagree over how serious of a blow Dewhurst’s loss may or may not have been to Perry’s political capital in the Lone Star State, they all are at a consensus that Perry is down. Whether or not he is out, they say, will be decided in the next two years.
But this conscientious observer is inclined to disagree.
I put little stock in the assertion that Perry sticking his neck out for Dewhurst, followed by Dewhurst losing by a wide margin, as proof that Texas Republicans have grown tired of the longest-serving Governor in America. I also tend to put little stock in the thought that we politicos so often enjoy entertaining: that an endorsement truly carries game-changing weight. But, for argument’s sake, let’s start out with that one.
When examining Perry’s wholesale endorsement scorecard with Texas Republicans, it’s difficult to assert that he has somehow lost his sway. In total, Perry has weighed in on 23 Texas elections this year, with a record of 16 victories and 7 losses. Of those second-hand wins, 14 came without runoffs, and he fared 2-2 on Tuesday’s second round of elections.
That’s a 69.5% success rate for recipients of Perry endorsements at surface level.
Naturally, that goes without taking into account individual campaigns and issues that arose internal and external. But hey, I’m just talking on the same level of those saying that Dewhurst’s defeat marks further downward spiraling for Perry’s political future.
Not to mention that Perry endorsed Rudy Giuliani in 2008. Did that somehow prevent him from becoming one of the first forbearers of Tea Party Republicanism in the first place? But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Since folding his ill-fated presidential run in January, the most forward re-assertion of Perry’s clout in Texas politics lies not with Dewhurst’s campaign or other endorsements, but the Texas Budget Compact. Yes, that same Compact that Erick Erickson (a strong Cruz backer) dubbed a signal that Perry “has served notice that he continues to be the lead conservative voice in Texas and plans to govern that way”.
To boot, it’s been signed by quite a few incumbent, and prospective, Texas lawmakers, serving notice that ‘centrist-thinking Republicans should bear that mind’.
The Compact has served as Perry’s re-entry into the field of Texas policy making, a field which even his harshest critics acknowledge he has mastered. In last year’s bi-annual legislative roundup, Texas Monthly (mind you, no fan of Perry’s), served him with the session’s ‘Leadership’ award and stated that he “has mastered this game like no governor before him”.
So, when it comes to influencing the legislative agenda, how can anyone reasonably argue that Perry’s clout has been diminished in the last year? The legislature hasn’t even met.
Of course, the issue people will place above the survival of legislative influence is whether or not the Governor still has the ability to fire up the conservative movement in Texas. Throughout Perry’s presidential run, the one that was never in dispute is his talent as a retail politician. There are none better; I can attest from firsthand experience.
But don’t take my word for it. Look no further than the aptly titled “Gov. Rick Perry-the reports of his political death are greatly exaggerated”:
“Sure, the hair is a bit grayer and the lines on his face a bit deeper, but make no mistake, Rick Perry remains a formidable politician. I’d hate to be the guy that decided to spend $20 million to go up against him in 2014…Sure, the naysayers will continue to hit him, and I’m sure I will as well, but never, ever underestimate his ability to connect with people. Or win elections, his presidential quest notwithstanding.”
Oh, and by the way, the candidate Perry was endorsing at that particular event, he won.
I suppose it’s also a moot point to note that if one thing was proven on the presidential campaign trail, Perry knows how to fill his campaign coffers. Yes, I know that money doesn’t buy elections, but when you pair a keen ability to personally collect with ‘Sam’s Club Republicans’ with fundraising prowess, you have a potential re-election bid, in a state which has vetted him ten times over, that cannot be taken lightly.
Indulging in the exercise of reminding the flacks and hacks who now decry Perry of why they found him so fascinating in the first place is one of necessity. How easily people forget that this is a man who has never lost an election in Texas and, only a year ago, checked off practically every item on his legislative agenda.
National pundits may count themselves as ringing the bells on a fallen Tea Party idol’s electoral deathbed, but if there’s one thing Rick Perry knows, it’s Texas.
And whether 2013 marks the beginning of his final legislative session as Governor, or the kickoff to the quest for a fourth full-term, one thing is clear: dismissing Rick Perry is a Texas-sized mistake.