Governor finally bows out of GOP race, but only after making mockery of himself and our state
After months of holding their breaths in dread of what Rick Perry might do or say next on the national stage, Texans are now witnessing the ignominious return of their governor to the state.
Everyone knew Perry would eventually be on his way back, but clarity suddenly and inexplicably has also come to the befuddled candidate earlier than expected. Just two days before the South Carolina primary Perry announced Thursday, Jan. 19 at a press conference he was finally giving up his fruitless bid for the presidency. “There is no viable path forward for me in the 2012 campaign,” he said to a national audience that undoubtedly chanted back to the television screen, “It’s about time!”
When Perry gets back to the $10,000-per-month rented house afforded him by state taxpayers, he will be regarded by most Texans in a vastly different light from when he left after announcing his presidential political ambitions in August. Once the pride and joy of conservatives here, Perry had fallen to third in his home state behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, according to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic group that polled 559 Texas Republican primary voters Jan. 12-15.
The same poll results suggest that for once Republicans and Democrats agree strongly on something — Perry has fractured the state’s image with a multitude of missteps and misstatements that often bordered on the surreal. Of Republican voters 39 percent said they viewed Perry’s candidacy as having cast the state in a negative light, in comparison to 13 percent that viewed it as a positive, according to the poll.
In contrast Texas Congressman Ron Paul, whose libertarian philosophy led to his being pegged as a “fringe” candidate by the media, fared much better than Perry. Only 28 percent of Republican voters said Paul’s candidacy has hurt the state’s image, while 19 percent said it was an enhancement.
As a practical matter, the poll results only confirm what had already become obvious to many people who were accustomed to hearing strong support for Perry during casual political debates. The most ardent of former Perry supporters apparently are too embarrassed to speak up for him anymore. Many people clearly are wondering how Perry’s inability to think and talk at the same time had gone undetected for so long before God told him to run for president.
Even prominent gay Dallas Republican Rob Schlein — who vowed early on he would vote for Perry if he was the Republican nominee for president regardless of the governor’s legendary anti-gay rhetoric — took to bashing Perry on Facebook because of the candidate’s poor performances. The loss of support from Schlein — who recently vowed he would vote for the ultra-conservative Rick Santorum if he becomes the nominee — illustrates just how far Perry’s political fortunes have sunk.
To make the situation even more annoying, Perry’s candidacy has cost Texas taxpayers quite a bit of money for his protection while on the campaign trail. Security costs for Perry incurred by the Texas Department of Public Safety amounted to about $400,000 per month, according to a Texas Tribune examination of the agency’s records.
The financial analysis would suggest that Perry’s decision to continue on with his presidential campaign after coming in fifth place in the Iowa caucus cost Texans another needless several hundred thousand dollars in security costs. His resolve to proceed in New Hampshire and South Carolina after strongly hinting following the Iowa thrashing that he was about to give up and head home left many Texans bewildered.
In Perry’s campaign speeches he pointed toward the South Carolina primary as the deal-breaker for him if he could not get the state’s conservative religious voters behind him.
Presumably it finally dawned on Perry that he was in store for another humiliating failure, seeing as how he was in last place in the polls with only about 6 percent supporting him, after the conservative religious establishment decided in a meeting in Texas last weekend to throw its support behind Rick Santorum.
In making the announcement he would drop out of the race and that he would endorse Newt Gingrich, Perry said, “I know when it is time to make a strategic retreat.” That was a statement that many will likely view as humorous, given the governor’s apparent long delay in coming to that realization.
In fairness to the governor, it’s no doubt a difficult task for a political candidate who has never before lost an election to return home in disgrace. It doesn’t help matters much that while Perry was on the campaign trail a gay former Texas legislator, Glen Maxey, published a book with anonymous sources claiming the governor is a closeted hypocrite who engaged in a past secret homosexual life. The governor’s campaign denounced the book as a pack of lies, but the publication of a book expanding on the rumors that have plagued him for six years must at the very least be frustrating — even if they possibly did happen to be true.
As the longest-serving governor in Texas history with 11 years under his cowboy buckle belt, Perry destroyed his reputation as a strong governor on the presidential campaign trail. He went from double-digit frontrunner status ahead of Mitt Romney — the likely nominee barring a new surge by one of the other three candidates in the up-and-down race — to last place.
Ever the optimist, Perry declared with his wife and son by his side that he wasn’t disenchanted and he wasn’t discouraged to be packing up and heading home. He declared that he felt rewarded for having followed the “calling” to run for president. “And this I know, I’m not done fighting for the cause of conservatism,” Perry said. “As a matter of fact, I have just begun to fight.”
It appeared that at the end of the announcement Perry was again drifting off into that mindset that got him into the race in the first place. It was unclear where Perry planned to wage that fight now that his campaign is over, but he assured viewers, “Things are going to be good no matter what I do.”
Maybe he was referring to the luxury in which he and wife Anita undoubtedly will be living for the rest of their lives, because it’s not likely to be a continuation of his successful political career. Or maybe he is hoping for some sort of political appointment or an opportunity from the business leaders he has courted as governor.
One thing is for sure, the “God and Country,” Bible-thumping proclamations that kept winning Perry re-elections to the governor’s office failed him on the national stage for president, and it’s a pretty good bet that it will never again serve him quite as well in Texas politics. And it’s a good thing for the governor that he became wealthy as a career office-holder because his political eulogy is now being drafted by pundits nationwide.
David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.