After his highly competent performance in the last debate and his graceful and articulate exit from the campaign, a lot of folks are wondering: Where was this Rick Perry last fall?
It’s easy now to forget that the Texas governor was the prohibitive favorite when he entered the Republican presidential race last August. Voters were still casting about for a conservative standard-bearer capable of winning the White House. His state had a Texas-sized story to tell about lower taxes and regulation, and how they stimulate the economy: Nearly 40 percent of all jobs created in the United States since 2009 had been in Texas.
He boasted made-for-TV looks and, though he regularly and rightly savaged Washington, he had capital swagger.
But although the protracted buildup to his entrance was nearly as long as his campaign ended up being, he was eye-poppingly unprepared for prime time. As we said at the time, his failure to remember three points he wanted to make in a November debate may have been the most painful, embarrassing, self-destructive 53 seconds in post-television presidential debate history. He lost the lead and never recovered it – falling precipitously to irrelevance.
Nor did it help that as governor, he’d issued an executive order to vaccinate Texas girls as young as 11 against the sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer – without so much as a second from the legislature. And when confronted about his support for tuition breaks for the children of illegal immigrants, he said of those who disagree, “I don’t think you have a heart.”
The race was his to lose, and boy, did he lose it.
In bowing out, he showed glimpses of the Perry that could have been – beautifully articulating the cause he sought to lead:
“Our country’s hurting, make no mistake about that: 13 million people out of work; 50 million of our citizens on food stamps; $15 trillion national debt and growing. We need bold, conservative leadership that will take on the entrenched interests and give the people their country back.”
We’re still looking.