Perry Seeks To Revive Sagging Numbers
Rick Perry’s presidential campaign has reshuffled its staff over the last couple of weeks, including its top advisors. The goal is to stop the bleeding and revive a candidate who has stumbled from front-runner to fourth place in many polls.
We all know the story by now: Rick Perry jumps in to the Republican presidential race and vaults to the top of field, only to fall dramatically after a series of weak debate performances and other stumbles.
“Running for president is a much different stage then running for governor of Texas, and Governor Perry didn’t appear to realize that in his first couple of months,” said Reid Wilson, editor in chief of National Journal’s Hotline blog.
Wilson’s is a sentiment that has been echoed across the country. Americans have seen poor preparation from a candidate unaccustomed to being grilled on policy issues. Also, poor debate performances, from a candidate who has debated only five times in his 10 years as governor and flat out refused to debate his Democratic opponent in 2010.
Combined, the effect is dropping poll numbers among GOP voters who aren’t embracing Perry’s Texas policies the way Texans have.
“I think Rick Perry vastly underestimated how volatile the Republican electorate is right now,” said Democratic strategist Jason Stanford.
Volatile and–it would appear–unwilling to compromise on certain topics. Until now, Perry was able to count on voters in Texas to broadly support him on immigration. The governor’s policies talk tough on border security, but voters are more tolerant of illegal immigrants themselves.
“Governor Perry did not demonstrate that kind of hardline approach and I think his campaign was surprised by the reaction it got,” said National Journal’s Reid Wilson. “It is a message that plays well in Texas that doesn’t necessarily play well with conservative voters outside of Texas.”
This was especially true when it came to a law allowing some students who are in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.
The conservative activist organization Americans for Prosperity has been a major supporter of Gov. Perry over the years, but the director of Texas’ chapter said they just can’t support that provision.
“It does seem unfair to many of us in the state and across the country that illegal immigrants would have a greater advantage than, let’s say, our neighbors to the north in Oklahoma who are legal U.S. citizens,” said Peggy Venable of Americans for Prosperity.
Perry’s stumbles led to recent additions and demotions to his campaign staff. Most notably brought in was former President George W. Bush’s 2000 election campaign manager Joe Allbaugh as the campaign’s top strategist, a role that’s been held for years by Dave Carney.
There are four debates over the next four weeks. If he can turn around his performance, Perry could still make people forget about previous outings. National Journal’s Reid Wilson said beyond that, the campaign has to focus Perry on doing the things he does best: retail politicking, by spending time meeting voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“I think when Governor Perry gets back on the ground in those states, you’re going to see him start to move. He’s already started to run advertisements in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. I expect his poll numbers to rise because of them, and because he’s the only person actually on the air,” Wilson said.
Democratic strategist Jason Stanford said he expects Perry to go on the attack in the final weeks.
“I imagine Rick Perry’s out for blood right now. I’d really hate to be Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum, who walks up smugly and tries to land a punch on Rick Perry at this point,” Stanford said.
Perry might even be trying to land a few punches of his own. Herman Cain accused the Perry camp of leaking information to Politico, after the news source revealed that the National Restaurant Association paid a cash settlement to two staff members over sexual harassment allegations in the 90s.
The Perry campaign has denied any involvement in leaking the story. However, as part of that denial, the accused leaker, new Perry staffer Kurt Anderson, suggested during a CNN interview that some candidates can’t handle the pressure of a presidential campaign.