Rick Perry won’t decide before early next year if he will run for president again in 2016, but he does not "shy away from telling people that I am actively considering it."
"The lessons I learned in 2011 were frustrating and humbling," the Texas Republican says. "I may have been a little arrogant in my thinking that I had been the governor of Texas for 12 years and what could be harder than that?"
He found out quickly that some things are harder. And running for president of the United States is one of them.
He admits that engaging "in an intellectual discussion about the affairs of this world takes a substantial amount of preparation, and I did not do that."
"With that said, I know what is required now. I am going through that process of being prepared. And, so, I may decide that this is not right for me, right for my family — and if I do, that will be what that will be."
This is the summer of Rick Perry, and he is making the most of his position on the national stage — thanks to more than 50,000 unaccompanied illegal-alien children who flooded the Texas border.
Gone is the sluggish, fumbling, unprepared Republican candidate from August 2011 who was still recovering from back surgery. In his place, at age 64, is a substantive, charming, confident governor taking on the president in a way no other potential candidate could — based on knowing how to deal with the issue at hand, the border.
Perry has unique experiences and relationships that are lacked by others engaged in this issue, explained Bruce Haynes, a Republican strategist and managing partner at Purple Strategies, a Washington-based political consulting firm. "For some people, it’s purely a theoretical, ideological issue; it is that for Rick Perry, but it is also practical," he said.
As the border controversy has become the most important domestic issue in opinion polls, the conversation about Perry has moved with it.
Haynes said Perry lives on a daily basis with the physical, social and personal impacts of the border problem. That gives him great power not only to understand it but to explain it to people, and to discuss effective solutions that appeal broadly, not just ideologically.
The immigration issue enables Perry to re-frame himself in a way that he couldn’t if he had to manufacture an opportunity, Haynes said. "It is an authentic crisis, he has risen to meet it in an authentic manner, people know it is real, and they are giving him a second look because of the way he has handled it."
Perry’s 2011 introduction to Americans beyond Texas did not go extremely well, Haynes said of that first run for president: "He has been lampooned, his debate performances were poor, and he did not show himself to be of presidential timber.
"You turn the page to today, and you can make an argument that no Republican has done a better job of engaging the president in a difficult issue than Rick Perry has done with immigration."
Democrat strategist Dane Strother believes Perry will be just fine if he decides to run. "He did not screw up in a personal way, he just ran a bad campaign," he said.
Strother does not think Perry is looking for political redemption, because he doesn’t think he needs any: "I don’t think he did anything wrong. He didn’t plagiarize, he didn’t get caught with a woman, he didn’t not pay his taxes. I mean, the guy is squeaky clean.
"He ran a bad campaign. That is not a crime, and that does not require redemption — that just requires better consultants."
Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt said Perry’s recent appearances in the Hawkeye State have been well-received by voters there.
"He’s up there with Rand Paul and Chris Christie as a unique choice for Repubs in 2016," Schmidt said.
Whatever Perry decides to do in 2016, the governor says his decision won’t be based on whether or not he is prepared: "That part I will have covered this time."
Salena Zito is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial page columnist. E-mail her at [email protected]