Texas Gov. Rick Perry just can’t seem to shut the door on a 2012 presidential run.
With conservatives aching for more choices in the approaching 2012 Republican primary, Perry declined Tuesday to rule out a White House bid during a press conference about a new anti-abortion measure. Also Tuesday, his top strategist told the Tribune that the governor is, naturally, “thinking about it” given the flattering comments made recently by some in the GOP, although he “doesn’t see any change in his direction.”
I’m pretty much staunchly in the Pawlenty camp at this point, which is why I am more than a little worried about the manner in which Perry may be able to effectively compete with Pawlenty for the meat in the middle of the GOP electorate, the folks who want an electable conservative candidate. We’re nearing a point where Pawlenty would pretty much have these voters to himself. Moreover, with recent rumors that Palin and Giuliani are taking a second look at 2012, Pawlenty could simply hope for a Bachmann/Palin catfight in Iowa, and a Rudy/Romney grudge match in New Hampshire to clear the way for T-Paw in the early states. Then it would be on to South Carolina, where the likely endorsement of Nikki Haley would make a Pawlenty victory a done deal, and would set the stage for a rout on Super Tuesday.
But all of that changes if Perry enters the race. Indeed, Perry would probably be a game-changer for a lot of prospective candidates, as he would eat into the Bachmann/Palin evangelical support in Iowa, the Palin/Cain Tea Party support, the Giuliani/Palin tough-guy support, etc. He would also fill the void for a Southerner, making him downright dangerous in South Carolina.
If Perry gets in, he probably has a decent shot at the nomination. That would result in a deep red Texan with revolutionary rhetoric attempting to win suburban women in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in the general election. I am more than a tad skeptical that someone like Perry would play in Pennsylvania. Pawlenty, meanwhile, would have a pretty good shot at taking the Keystone State, especially if he named Sen. Pat Toomey as his running mate. Pawlenty has a proven ability to win the Northern suburbs. Perry’s ability to do the same has yet to be tested.
A more likely result, though, is that Perry and Pawlenty split the “mainstream conservative” vote and allow the showdown that we’re all dreading: Romney v. Palin or Bachmann. That sort of race would easily take on the same dynamics as Castle v. O’Donnell, only at the national level. We all saw how that turned out for Republicans.