Despite the baggage, Perry could keep office until 2019

Posted Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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kennedy Every four years, our Governor-Since-Last-Century reads all the polls telling him not to run again.

Every four years, he wins anyway.

Last go-round, Gov. Rick Perry lost nearly half the votes in his own party but still went on to victory and then an extended blooper reel of a presidential campaign.

This time, a new North Carolina-based poll calls him "among the most unpopular governors in the country" and has him only 3 points ahead of Attorney General Greg Abbott among Republicans.

Yet if he wants, he probably can stay until 2019.

"Perry remains the best-known political figure in Texas," wrote political science professor Jerry Polinard, in his 41st year at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.

"Abbott et al. risk joining Kay Bailey Hutchison's 'I Underestimated Rick Perry Club,'" referring to the then U.S. senator's 2010 campaign loss by 21 points after a 20-point lead.

There are two big differences between Hutchison's campaign and a potential Abbott challenge:

First, Perry and Abbott are more allies than rivals. Perry was one of three Republicans who co-signed Abbott's first campaign fundraising letter in 1995, before he was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court.

Second, Republican money will probably decide the nomination long before voters might, particularly if Perry's popularity lags enough to hurt other candidates.

"The question is whether major donors and key party leaders are willing to back Perry in spite of the adverse impact," professor Mark P. Jones of Rice University wrote by email.

Either Republican would win, Jones wrote. But he'll count on Perry until donors "indicate Abbott is 'their' candidate."

Only 40-year University of Houston professor Richard Murray was more doubting. He quoted the chance of Perry running again at 30 percent and gave him a 50-50 shot at the nomination.

Murray made Perry a 100-1 long shot to win the 2016 presidential nomination and added: "Chance of being elected president -- 1 in 1,000."

His fellow Republicans are more encouraging.

Or not.

In the phone survey of 500 Texans by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, 22 percent of Republicans said they want Perry to run for president again.

But only 4 percent would vote for him.

The rest just want another blooper reel.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @budkennedy

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