Perry fades away

A story in the Austin American Statesman makes the case that Perry will remain in control in Texas even if his campaign fails. The story is both right and wrong and I think that the headline should be “Even if Perry’s campaign succeeds, his hold on state power will fade” instead of “Even if Perry’s campaign fails, his hold on state power likely won’t.”

I am not criticizing Perry personally. I am talking about a basic dynamic of electoral politics: the problem of becoming “lame duck.” Dwight Eisenhower, the first president to be subject to the term limits created by the 22nd amendment, described the problem this way:

It is a tradition in this country that the moment a President publicly announces his determination not to seek re-election, his political influence disappears.  From that day onward the leaders of his own party jockey for position in the hope of becoming his successor in the Presidency, while newspapers and the opposing party alike lose interest in him because of his self elimination from the political future of the country.

Eisenhower knew that once he was not part of America’s political future people would look past him and his influence would inevitably wane. Unless Perry suddenly announces that he will run for another term as governor the forces that diminished Eisenhower will gradually push Perry aside as the state’s political forces look for their futures elsewhere. It does not matter if Perry win or loses in Iowa and New Hampshire since Perry would not have much time for Texas government if he wins the GOP nomination.

The article is correct that Perry will continue to have a big impact on the state. Presidents and governors may see their political power slowly ebbing as their time in office winds down. That does not mean that they do not still hold the power to inflict harm on their opponents when cornered.

It will become harder for Perry to lead Texas. Leadership is about the future and opponents will figure that they should wait out Perry to see who is next. That being said, he’ll still have a the power to veto legislation or otherwise disrupt someone else’s plans.

Perry is not going to talk about this. The Eisenhower quotation above was taken from a private letter to a good friend and Ike was not anxious to public discuss his political fate. Smart politicians talk about their strength and not their weaknesses. However, it does not change the fact that launching a presidential campaign was the beginning of the end of Perry era in Texas.

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