Rick Perry does not play by your puny rules. He is not constrained by logic, the greater good, or a sense of shame. If you’re an ambitious Republican politician hoping to move up the food chain, you have two choices: Play by his rules and hope that things work out for you, or don’t play by his rules and be prepared to be hung as a lion and not a lamb.
Lobbyists and friends who know Perry say he is telling associates that he plans to run in 2014, which could give him 18 years in the governor’s office. He has also publicly held the door open to another presidential run in 2016. On Wednesday Perry told CBS DFW TV that he was thinking about another White House bid and that his “instincts are very positive towards” a race for governor in two years.
“Everybody who I’ve talked to that’s met with him comes away with the idea that he’s running [for re-election],” said Austin lobbyist Bill Miller. “That’s what he’s telling them.”
Is it all a ruse? Some observers believe that Perry merely wants to avoid being written off as a has-been, that he wants to be taken seriously when Texas lawmakers meet again next year.
“I think he is re-engaging to make sure he is a player in the upcoming legislative session,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. “It’s a good way to remain in the public eye after taking such a beating in the presidential election.”
For a whole bevy of Republican officeholders, guessing what Perry will do next goes beyond idle political speculation. It could have a major impact on their own futures. GOP state officials like Attorney General Greg Abbott, Comptroller Susan Combs, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples (plus all the people who want to replace them) have been itching to move up. Without a vacancy at the top, they potentially face bruising primaries or career stagnation.
Abbott in particular has a lot riding on Perry’s next move. He had $12 million in the bank at last count and is widely considered the top GOP contender for governor if Perry is not in the picture.
Allies of both men — and they tend to swim in the same political waters — say Abbott’s strategy is to give Perry a wide berth. They say Abbott wants to avoid backing Perry into a corner, for fear that doing so could push the easily provoked West Texan into making a rash re-election announcement.
Waiting to see what Rick will do is the KBH strategy. We all know how that turns out. Besides, if Abbott thinks Perry is unhinged enough to make a decision about running based on emotion and not wanting to feel backed into a corner, why wouldn’t he want to goad him into doing something he might regret? Why not make him decide on your terms instead of letting him dictate them? I don’t see how that’s worse than letting him remain comfortable for as long as he wants.