SAN ANTONIO -- So, summing up, here’s what we know: Gov. Rick Perry’s not running for governor again and he might (and probably wants to) run for president again.
And we know he’s been history-book successful about the former and spectacularly unsuccessful about the latter.
“Any future considerations I will announce in due time,” he said Monday in an announcement that probably drew more attention than any previously made in a heavy-equipment warehouse.
The “future considerations” calculation will be heavy on math, specifically the sometimes-incalculable math of presidential politics: Can Perry win?
Odds are against it, but, looking forward to a 2016 White House campaign with big questions on both sides, it’s too early to discount the possibility.
Perry’s Monday announcement came as he garners national attention for his high-profile backing of an abortion restriction bill. The last time Perry told us he was seriously thinking about running for president also came as he was working on a red-meat Red State measure. On May 27, 2011, after signing the voter identification bill in the Governor’s Reception Room — and after months of saying he had no interest in the presidency — Perry told us he was considering it.
The rest is history, bad history about a bad result for a bad candidate.
The current conventional wisdom about the 2016 GOP presidential nomination battle revolves around whether the party will go further right with someone like a Perry, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, all of whom might be solid contenders in crucial early contests in Iowa and South Carolina. (You never know what those odd folks in the odd state of New Hampshire are going to do.)
The further-to-the-right approach is favored by Repubs who blame their 2008 and 2012 losses on nominees they viewed as moderates — John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Those two nominees shared something else in common. Each benefited from failed first bids for the GOP nomination, McCain in 2000 and Romney in 2008. Neither, however, had major oops moments in their first bids.
Weighing against the notion of a nominee from the Perry-Santorum-Rubio wing of the party is the possibility that Republicans, in some states, could be viewed as having gone too far right. The current Texas abortion bill battle, with Perry as a leading voice for the bill, could be a litmus test of that.
And there’s the feel, even among some in his own party, of a national softening on some issues — same-sex marriage, gay Boy Scouts — on which Perry remains a hard-liner. On immigration, however, it must be noted that Perry, with a border-state governor’s sensibilities, took some GOP heat in 2012 for backing in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants.
How it all plays for Perry and others of his right-wing ilk remains to be seen. If the Repubs opt for a more centrist nominee, potential contenders such as Jeb Bush and Chris Christie could benefit.
All of this plays into the math as Perry does the homework he must do to mount a stronger second race for the White House. The two major questions he must answer are intertwined: Is he prepared to be president and can he win the nomination and general election?
Being more properly prepared than he was in 2012 can go a long way to answering the second question.
The stagecraft for his Monday non-announcement about the 2016 presidential race was far different than his 2011 event at which he first expressed interest in the 2012 race. The latter came during q-and-a with reporters, and his answer surprised some Perry aides.
“I’m going to think about it,” he told us back then, “but I think about a lot of things.”
He’s thinking about it again, probably never has stopped thinking about it.
Last time, he entered as a front-runner. This time, as a result of last time, he might start as a second-tier candidate. And unlike recent Repubs who captured the nomination on their second attempt, Perry starts with the challenge of overcoming — not building on — what he did the first time.
Ken Herman is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.