“The worst presidential candidate in American history,” according to liberal political commentator James Carville, is returning to Texas to continue his reign as the longest-serving governor in state history. And if Rick Perry has his way, he’ll probably lay low for a few weeks, which means no shooting coyotes on morning jogs or tweeting pictures of himself jogging in the same Nike shorts ubiquitous in the halls of UT’s sorority houses.
After this brief pause, we predict, it’s full steam ahead with the battles he abandoned when he left Texas in August to launch his presidential campaign, one of which was an assault on higher education.
Our governor launched his presidential campaign on Aug. 13, exuding confidence, wearing cowboy boots and riding on Texas’ reputation as one of the most employed states in the country. “What makes our nation exceptional is that anyone from any background can climb to the highest of heights,” he said in his announcement speech.
Things started off well, as he was declared the winner of the Sept. 7 GOP debate. Among the statements that drew attention at the time, Perry said, “It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, ‘You’re paying into a program that’s going to be there.’ Anybody that’s for the status quo with social security today is involved with a monstrous lie.”
“I kind of feel like the piñata here at the party,” Perry observed later in the debate. The nation responded to his performance with the critical eye that comes with frontrunner status. There were two more debates, neither a success, before the infamous debate in Michigan that will forever be remembered as the “Oops Debate,” during which Perry could not remember the third in a list of federal agencies he would cut if elected president.
After Michigan, Perry continued to slide in national polls, and his campaign increasingly took on an air of desperation. This triggered a series of unfortunate events, including a head-scratching ad about religion followed by forgetting the number of Supreme Court justices, the voting age and the date of the presidential election. It was an awesome fall from prime time footing to late-night fodder.
After placing fifth in the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3, he stayed in the race, despite making a brief return to Texas to contemplate a path forward. Then, he dropped out of the race Thursday — just in time to avoid another debate appearance — and endorsed Newt Gingrich.
As he did so, Texans breathed a sigh of relief — not because it was so hard to share our governor with the rest of the country, but because Perry’s continued embarrassments reflected the constituency that has elected him in office again and again. Perry’s return does not diminish the state’s influence on the national stage but allows Texans to distinguish between the bright light and the spotlight.
Now that he’s coming home, Texas money will flow to other candidates, and the state can take its place as a more important stakeholder in the nomination process. And lest we forget, we still have a Texas candidate, Congressman Ron Paul, R-Surfside.
It was a cruel and inevitable dose of national humble pie for the candidate who entered the race with a campaigning repertoire of all-I-do-is-win but left with embarrassment and chagrin.
When Perry left the Lone Star State, Texas was coming off a brutal legislative session featuring wide-ranging cuts and fierce partisanship. If he had managed to carve his way to the White House, Perry would have been able to side step the ruthless after-effects of the decisions he made to lay the best track to Washington. But now he will have to face them.
At the same time, we’re far from a lame-duck governor.
Texas has at least three more years of Perry, and there’s no indication that he’ll slow down. Moreover, the state’s higher education controversy won’t likely be receding anytime soon, as Perry and his supporters are back in town.
Either way, we know that the closing of this chapter has at least one man elated: “Maybe all the hate tweets will be subdued now that he’s back to Texas. I want my twitter account back!” Rick Perry, a pastor in New Haven, Conn., who self-identifies as “THE OTHER RICK PERRY,” tweeted after the governor’s announcement.