I don’t know

Let me say what no journalist/pundit writing about the Rick Perry indictment is brave enough to say: I don’t know.

Rick Perry Mug ShotI don’t know what’s going to happen. Why? Because I haven’t seen the evidence that was presented to the grand jury. Perry and others have not even testified. There’s so much we do not know about this story. Reporters, pundits, and their like feel a constant need to fill space. They write whether they know something or not. Why? Because they want to get ahead of the competition.

Some people are saying that Perry is guilty and will be convicted and/or should resign. Ironically, Perry might really like to resign to focus on running for president. He’s already on the road a lot.

I get suspicious when they call your indictment an “asset” or even a “blessing” for Perry. It has been portrayed in the media as some partisan witch hunt. It may well have started that way. However, Judge Bert Richardson, a Republican, named Michael McCrum as independent prosecutor for the case. Michael McCrum has an excellent reputation and enjoyed the support of the state’s two Republican senators when he was being considered for U.S. attorney for the District of Texas. Efforts to portray this as a partisan battle between Perry and a drunken Democratic District Attorney will not hold up when people see where these questions are coming from. Even if you doubt the leanings of the prosecutor, the grand jury that indicted Perry found something in that case. Some people have looked at this evidence and seen something. I’m not convinced it’s because of partisan politics.

Will it be enough there to convict Perry? Probably not

Can Rick Perry afford any more distractions and baggage? No.

At this point in his career Perry is hoping for more out of life than a lack of jail time and Republicans are not going to be interested in nominating a candidate whose flaws have been thoroughly investigated, documented, and reported. As I noted in an earlier post, Perry has already finished poorly in the Texas GOP straw poll. His candidacy does not need more problems.

Perry might still be able to pull it out. Nixon certainly did. However, citing Nixon as a model of redemption is not the most comforting image since the nation just commemorated the 40th anniversary of his resignation. Clinton (either one–maybe both) survived scandals. But again, we’re not talking about the name Republicans will enjoy referencing.

Fredo Corleone from the Godfather

Perry should be worried when Democratic strategist Robert Axelrod and Republican rivals offer up their support. Their embrace of Perry may have a very different meaning than he thinks.

The phrasing coming out of the spin machine is that this is an attempt to “criminalize” politics. That argument may resonate within the beltway in Washington or the political circles of Austin. Perry would be well served to remember that some Americans use the words “criminal” and political” interchangeably and probably wouldn’t mind putting Congress in prison. Perry (and everyone else in politics) would be wise not to embrace this argument because it equate embraces everything Americans hate about “politics as usual.”

This indictment is a serious problem for Perry. Strategists and pundits who dismiss it do so at their peril. There is a lot of this story left to play out. I don’t mind admitting that I don’t know what is going to happen. And, I’m in no rush. Perry is not on the ballot in 2014. Texans have other decisions to ponder.

 

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The “new” Rick Perry

BuKXyzaCAAAu9Fy.jpg-largeNational Journal recently ran a cover story on “The New Rick Perry.” National Journal is not widely read outside of DC, but inside DC it is widely respected for the kind of in-depth analysis that most publications never seem to find room for.

The article on the “new” Rick Perry is a good example of why National Journal is widely read by people who think seriously about politics. Michelle Cottle has recognized that Perry is building a new image in an effort to jump-start a stalled presidential bid.

The “new” Perry label is especially meaningful to longtime political observes because it harkens back to the “new Nixon” that emerged from devastating back-to-back defeats in the presidential race in 1960 and the 1962 California gubernatorial election. Politically, Nixon was dead in the water. In fact, he had told the press after the election that “you don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

Perry has faced his defeats. His stumbles in the 2012 campaign have been documented. More recently, the results of the Texas Republican straw poll (“Ted Cruz wins presidential straw poll“) made clear that Rick Perry’s future was in jeopardy–unless he makes some changes.

Ted Cruz 43.4%
Ben Carson 12.2%
Rand Paul 12.1%
Rick Perry 11.7%
Jeb Bush 3.3%
Scott Walker 2.9%
Other 2.7%
Marco Rubio 2.6%
Paul Ryan 2.0%
Rick Santorum 1.9%
Bobby Jindal 1.7%
Chris Christie 1.3%
Undecided 1.1%
Mike Pence 0.6%
John Kasich 0.5%
Steve King 0.2%

The problem was not Perry simply finishing behind Ted Cruz . Cruz is a great match with the Republican base in Texas in 2014 and he would be tough to beat with the kinds of Republicans who filled the state convention this summer. Perry could easily say that the Texas GOP is different from the national party and that he would enjoy broader support in other states. However, finishing in fourth place suggests that his appeal has become very narrow. Finishing behind Ben Carson, a newcomer known primarily for his appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, should warn Perry that Texas Republicans are looking hard for alternatives to Perry. Finishing behind the Rand Paul, the new face of the Libertarian wing of the party, should tell him a little about the future of the Republicans. The “Texas miracle” is not firing up voters in Texas. Why would it win hearts and minds in other states?

Finishing behind Cruz also tells us that Perry can no longer command the spotlight in Texas politics. Cruz is exhibiting more star power than Perry. And, unfortunately for Perry, star power is important for fundraising. Presidential candidates need the support of large donors to get their campaigns started. Perry needs Republicans to give him thousands of dollars and then get on the phone and convince their friends to contribute to Perry. Writing those checks and making those calls requires a lot of confidence in the candidate. Perry’s failed 2012 campaign gave Republican doubts about his breadth of his appeal and Texas straw poll renewed doubts about the depth of his appeal.

The Rick Perry we knew if not going to get elected president. His work so far has not resonated sufficiently with voters. Perry recognizes the need for some extensive rebranding to excite donors and win the hearts of Republican voters. The National Journal article could have used the language of comic books and movies and talked about a Perry “reboot.” That might have been familiar to more readers.  However, the fact that the “new” Nixon won the presidency in 1968 (and again in a landslide in 1972) after his defeats. The Nixon reference is an excellent remainder that anything is possible in politics. The Republican field is wide open and the new Rick Perry might prove much better than the old Perry. The National Journal story does a good job of previewing the new Rick Perry and anyone thinking about Perry’s presidential aspirations needs to give it a read..