There was a consensus among political observers that Texas Governor Rick Perry was poised to jump into the Republican presidential race even before he told the Des Moines Register on Sunday, “I’m not ready to tell you that I’m ready to announce that I’m in. But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs.” That statement seemed to remove any doubt about his plans. While Perry may be set to run, he may have realized placing his presidential ambitions in a religious context might be a little too much. On Monday, the Austin Statesman reported that the governor was walking back his “call” comment and denying there was anything religious about his decision.
My mother may call me for dinner. My friends may call me for something. There are people that are calling from all across this country into either me directly or to people that they know and saying, ‘Man, we wish you would consider doing this.’
As to whether he would run, on Monday, Perry went back to his standard line about making “a thoughtful, steady process of making a decision, and when we make that decision we’ll let you all know.”
We don’t know whether Perry is still making up his mind or whether this is just a tease to keep us interested while he makes the final preparations for entering the race. Given the moves his people are making in Iowa and elsewhere, the latter seems to be a safe bet.
Of course, that still leaves us wondering if he has really made up his mind, why waste all this time dithering when he could be organizing and campaigning? Though his name recognition and fundraising ability is such that a relatively late start won’t hurt him much, the longer he waits the more time Michele Bachmann, his principal rival for conservative, populist and Christian conservative voters, has the stage for herself.
The answer might be letting Bachmann get all the attention now may be exactly what Perry wants. The Minnesota congresswoman’s presidential stock continues to rise in polls, but this has also made her the focus of negative attacks from the liberal media who are eager to transform her image from the Tea Party heroine to a far right gadfly with issues about homosexuals.
As governor of Texas, Perry has been the focus of negative attention from the local press. In particular, he has taken abuse for what some claim is his lavish lifestyle at the state’s expense. If he does run, he will immediately vault to the first tier of candidates. That will mean the national press will begin their scrutiny of him and his family, a process that isn’t fun even if you have nothing to hide.
So while it appears he is still on course to run, Perry seems quite happy to spend the summer watching from the sidelines as Bachmann and frontrunner Mitt Romney absorb the attention of the media. That will still leave him plenty of time to run, and the press a little less time to rummage around in his personal life.