When you comin' back, Rick Perry?
The former Texas governor exited the presidential race in September, but his name has surfaced again in the past few days as a Donald Trump alternative.
A group of conservatives unhappy at the prospect of the divisive New York billionaire being the GOP nominee met last week in Washington, according to a New York Times report, and one name bandied about was Perry.
Trouble is, Perry is supporting fellow Texan Ted Cruz for president and is regularly campaigning for the U.S. senator. But could Perry, a popular figure with a good campaign shtick, be the anti-Trump at either the GOP convention or as a third-party bid?
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On MSNBC Monday afternoon, Perry didn’t quite put the kibosh on being drafted as a candidate in case of a contested convention.
“I can say definitively I am going to serve my country the best I can — and that’s working for Ted Cruz,” said Perry. Asked again whether he would definitively not agree to be drafted, the former Texas governor again said he was going to serve his country and that, at this point in time, “Ted Cruz is the candidate who can best serve the process.”
But that doesn’t rule out a convention without a clear nominee and a floor fight for one of the candidates — currently Trump, Cruz or Ohio Gov. John Kasich — or a compromise alternative.
Trump is currently the front-runner and Cruz a distant second in delegate counts. Both are looking to increase their totals in Tuesday’s election contests in Arizona and Utah.
“Rick Perry is very popular among conservative voters,” Texas GOP consultant Steve Munisteri, a former state party chairman, said in an interview. He said that Perry had a unique problem in the campaign: “He did have an indictment hanging over his head.”
But the charge of abusing his power while he was governor was dismissed in February. “Since that’s resolved now, I still think people like the idea of governors” for president, said Munisteri. Having said that, he still doesn’t think it’s much of a possibility that Perry would be the chosen one.
“I just don’t see a scenario where Rick Perry will be the nominee,” said Munisteri, a former top adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. “It’s a very, very, very remote possibility that the convention will bog down and choose one of the three that’s already running.”
‘Out of the picture’
Texas-based political consultant Bill Miller, who advises members of both parties, said, “He’s out of the picture. This is not smart thinking — there are other candidates.” He added, however, that “it’s a compliment to him that he’s being considered.”
A former Perry spokesman, Ray Sullivan, said in an interview that “for those of us who’ve worked with him for many years, it’s gratifying and a respect for his record and political prowess.”
Perry was Texas’ longest-serving governor, 14 years, before retiring in 2015. He ran a short-lived, unsuccessful campaign for president in 2012, best remembered for his “oops” moment. The candidate, during a GOP debate, couldn’t recall the three federal agencies he was proposing to abolish as part of his plan to reduce government regulation.
His image was rehabilitated during his 2016 run — including wearing stylish glasses instead of contacts — to the delight of his supporters.
“I’m not surprised his name is being brought up,” said Deirdre Delisi, a former Perry chief of staff who is now a lobbyist. “He’s a great candidate.” She said she worries that a contested convention would be “horribly divisive for the party.”
A third-party run is a much less likely scenario. Trump himself said Monday that “a third party means Democrats are going to win. You can’t be that spiteful.”
Maria Recio: 202-383-6103