There’s a reason why it’s called “silly season.” Every four years, an epidemic of White House Fever breaks out inside the beltway and makes its way to the nation’s media centers, the distribution points for infecting the rest of the country. For those of us in flyover country, it’s like a UFO flap, where numerous sightings of a reality series called “Pundits Gone Wild” are being reported.
Case in point: the current “Rick Perry for President” buzz. All it took to lift this rocket off the pad were a few favorable mentions of the Texas governor in the conservative press (see here, here, and here), and the next thing you hear is “Draft Perry” chatter:
DALLAS — He’s not on the ballot for 2012, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry strongly impressed a gathering of top Republican officials here Tuesday, with many high-ranking GOP officials saying the governor would be their top choice if he entered the presidential race.
“I would love to see a movement to draft Rick for the nomination if that’s the only way we can get him to run,” said Republican National Committee general counsel Bill Crocker after Mr. Perry delivered a luncheon address that had several hundred party officials attentive throughout.
“The comments I got after his speech made it clear I am not alone,” Mr. Crocker said at the meeting of GOP state chairmen and other RNC members.
Interviews with more than two dozen people after Mr. Perry spoke produced a highly unusual degree of consensus about the third-term governor’s potential prospects as a candidate.
The Perry for President buzz is spreading like – ahem – wildfire, fueled in part by a Democrat/Media Complex narrative that the current field of GOP presidential contenders is a “weak” crop. Even PJ Tatler Brian Preston has bought in to it. Next, I suppose, we will hear that Gov. Perry is “considering” a White House run. Oh, wait, that balloon has already gone up:
A Texas pol who is close to Perry has been telling a few key strategists that the nation’s longest-serving governor sees a vacuum and is waiting to be summoned into the race. This source believes that could happen by late summer. Without fellow Southerners Haley Barbour or Mike Huckabee in the race — and with Newt Gingrich’s early troubles raising further doubts about the current lineup — there could be a glaring niche for Perry to fill.
According to another well-connected Republican, at least one Perry confidant has been very quietly making inquiries about the political terrain in the nation’s first voting state of Iowa. A third Perry associate, RCP has learned, has been heralding a small contingent of Iowans with the time-tested line that is often used by would-be candidates who are leaving their options open: “Keep your powder dry.”
Perry’s aides have long made it clear that the tough-talking Texan, who succeeded George W. Bush in Austin in 2000, would not seriously entertain the idea of mounting a White House run before the state’s legislative session finishes at the end of this month. That date is now less than two weeks away, and the 2012 presidential field remains fluid.
The Perry chatter has been so discreet that nearly a dozen early-state GOP operatives and consultants contacted by RCP hadn’t heard a word about it. But they are unfazed that the buzz exists.
The problem with balloons, though, is they they inevitably get deflated and return to ground. Most of the Perry for President buzz seems to be coming out of Dallas. Cooler heads seem to prevail in Austin, according to NRO’s Kevin Williamson:
There’s been a bit of buzz about the possibility of Texas governor Rick Perry getting into the 2012 presidential race, mostly because he’s been making some phone calls to Iowa. Perry says that the Iowa outreach is part of his work as head of the Republican Governors Association, and, as much as I’d like to see him in the race, I think that’s probably (almost) all there is to it (at the moment). If Perry starts showing up at truck stops in New Hampshire on a regular basis, I’ll reconsider.
The main piece of evidence against a nascent Perry candidacy is the presence of Dave Carney, his chief political adviser, in the Gingrich campaign. It’s unlikely that Carney would be working on somebody else’s campaign, with Perry’s blessings, if Perry were getting serious about a 2012 run. For what it is worth, I have not found one knowledgeable person in Austin who thinks that Perry is serious about running for president.
RedState.com’s Erick Erickson is of the opinion that the only way to get Perry into the 2012 contest would be as a foil to Mitch Daniels’ presidential ambitions:
Perry is not running, but if Daniels does get in as seems certain and conservative angst runs high, I also believe that Perry could be drafted.
Conservatives would have to mount a massive, rapid, and high volume effort to get him in. I think such an outpouring of support and requests would draw Perry in. But, to do so, it’d have to be after Daniels and with continued displeasure with the field by conservatives.
One of the sticking points has always been whether the country was ready for another guy from Texas so soon after Bush. With Texas’s economy flourishing and the national economy still imploding, I think the country could get ready for another guy from Texas really quick.
Daniels is running. How conservatives react once Daniels makes it official could have an impact on Perry if conservatives target him for a draft effort.
If Perry does allow himself to be persuaded to chase the bandwagons to the White House along with the other big dogs, it would be the biggest flip-flop since John Kerry voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it. After all, Perry stated in November of last year:
“I’ve made my decision. If I really believe in the 10th amendment, then being a governor of a state is where the action is.”
Asked during a GOP gubernatorial debate on Jan. 29 whether he would serve his full four-year term if re-elected, Perry answered that he would “absolutely” as long as the Lord lets him live that long:
“If your intent here is to question where I would want to go any better than being the governor of the state of Texas, that place hasn’t been made yet,” Perry said.
The Lone Star State is one of the remaining places where a man’s word is his bond. Those who break that bond get branded as “all hat and no cattle,” which in Texas is worse than calling a man a horse thief. Houston Chronicle Washington bureau chief Rick Dunham says there’s no concrete evidence to confirm Perry is considering a run:
“Gov. Perry has repeatedly said he is not running for president, and that has not changed,” said Mark Miner, the governor’s spokesman.
But with Perry’s political pluses come some potential minuses. While he is a household name in Texas, he is not as well-known nationally and has fared poorly in early GOP straw polls. He finished 11th, behind winner Ron Paul, in a Tea Party Patriots online straw poll this spring. And he placed fourth in a Rasmussen Reports poll of dark-horse possibilities with 7 percent.
Some Texans close to Perry say he is hoping to be a kingmaker in the 2012 presidential campaign and has been sought out by candidates eager for his support.
While he says he’s not running for president, one Perry friend says, “he’s going to be available for dating.”
Our view is that until the GOP’s field of candidates shakes out a little more and some of those sitting on the sidelines toss their hats into the ring, the Rick Perry for President babble will persist. The chatterati hate to let go of their own narratives.
Cross-posted from Brazos Valley Pundit