Rick Perry loyalists hint at a future presidential bid; blame a lack of time for candidate stumbles

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Don’t look now, but Texas Governor Rick Perry might just run for president again some day. At least, that’s what some of his top advisers are hinting.

During a series of interviews with The Daily Caller, former Perry aides — some on the record and some off the record — agreed the Texas governor might run for president in the future. And, to a man, they all blamed the campaign’s struggles primarily on a lack of time.

“All of the ups and downs of the campaign can be individually — or even collectively — laid at the foundation that … 150 days is just not long enough to put together and execute a national campaign,” averred long-time Perry strategist Dave Carney.

Perry entered the race late in the game, in August of 2011. By most accounts, he was not planning to run for president until just months before he was virtually drafted to run. “I consider myself a ‘Perry guy,'” said Perry’s former Director of New Media Will Franklin, “but I didn’t know he was going to run until a few weeks before he announced.”

Perry’s lack of national experience and preparation ultimately proved costly. He stumbled badly in the debates. And his poor performances dominated the headlines — and undermined his proactive messaging and solid policy proposals.

“When you have all these debates, it’s hard to get any consistency of message,” Carney admitted.

One of the issues which cost Perry dearly in the early debates was his stance on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Asked if Perry underestimated the contentious nature of the illegal immigration question, Carney insisted that Perry “was well aware of the issue and it’s controversial nature … but the fact of the matter is that’s his position — that’s his record — and he’s not somebody who’s going to pander or change his position based on politics.”

But another insider disagreed, suggesting that Perry probably misjudged the degree to which his opponents would attack him on the immigration issue — especially considering he believed they were all equally vulnerable on the issue.

(Perry’s misconception might have been reinforced during his gubernatorial re-election, when he faced not just Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, but also a candidate from his right named Deborah Medina. “Deborah Medina didn’t attack him on this. Neither did Kay Bailey Hutchison,” said one Perry insider.)

After getting off to a solid start — including raising an impressive $17 million — the campaign hit some very rough patches. in a desperate attempt to fix things, long-time Perry confidant Dave Carney was ultimately pushed aside during a campaign shakeup.

“I don’t really know what happened, honestly,” Carney said. “It just happened. It was an evolutionary process.”

Franklin tells me that Carney was tasked with an almost impossible job, saying it’s like someone said, “Hey Dave, bake a cake. And he’s given 20 minutes to do it from start to finish. And mid-mixing the batter, he’s sort of taken out of the game.”

Another source confirmed the purges happened in stages. Ultimately, most of the Perry insiders based in Austin, Texas — ranging from top strategist Dave Carney (who actually resides in New Hampshire) to campaign manager Rob Johnson — were cast aside. “We had this anti-Washington campaign being run out of Washington,” said one former insider. “There is a ‘Rob Johnson Exile Tour’ t-shirt somebody on the campaign made.”

“There was some strategic differences,” Carney admitted. “But clearly there weren’t any fights or arguments. It just happened, you know. Candidates get to make choices. They pick the people they want working for them. But that’s irrelevant to the results.”

“Consultants are a dime a dozen,” he continued, in self deprecating fashion. “Political people are basically unemployed people [who don’t have] any marketable skills. There are only so many slots for used car salesmen, so they’ve got to work somewhere. This whole cult of political personalities bigger than the candidates…are really silly.”

Despite the way things ended, former Perry aides seem excited about the future. Carney, for example, sounded optimistic about the possibility Perry might run for president again in the future. “If he runs again, he’ll be better prepared,” he said.

Others agree. “I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all,” said Franklin.

“Look at the successful candidates who run. Ronald Reagan ran twice … you know, George Herbert Walker Bush ran twice … McCain had run before. Dole had run a number of times,” Carney said.

“Romney’s benefitting from having run before,” added Carney.

Asked directly if Perry is hoping to run again, Carney said: “I know he wants to keep his options open and see what happens. But his top political priority would be to make sure we don’t have four more years of Obama.”

Matt K. Lewis