With days to go, Perry drops out

So this week sees yet another Republican exit the race with only two states having cast votes. The battle now will be for endorsements. Time for Santorum to place party ahead of ego?

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Lights out for Perry
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Dr. James Boys
On 19 January 2012 15:33

In the summer of 2011, Republican Party elders and grass-roots activists alike looked agog at the potential candidates seeking the nomination. That they could be so dominated by the candidate from Massachusetts spoke volumes as to their lack of ‘conservative’ credentials.

In desperation they searched the land, hoping against hope to bring a true conservative into the race to save the Party from the perceived extremism of the Tea Party and the apparent liberalism of Mitt Romney.

To the rescue appeared Texan Governor Rick Perry.

The Perry promise appeared to be ready made and ready to go. Handsome, dashing and with enough of a George W. Bush swagger to appeal to those who longed for the good ol’ days before Obama, Perry appeared to be a shoe-in for the nomination.

His announcement to seek the nomination took the winds completely out of Michelle Bachmann’s sails, just as she won the straw poll in Iowa, and put a marker down; he looked a no-nonsense candidate, determined to win.

Alas, from there on it has all been down hill.

Perhaps it was about expectations, but the Perry campaign may go down as the worst organised, most poorly implemented in presidential history. The campaign threw money around as though it were going out of fashion (which the Dollar may well be doing of course), made rash predictions with regard to outcomes and time after time, singularly failed to deliver, either in debate performance or most importantly, in key elections.

Perry’s performance in debates was revealing, as he failed to remember key points to his platform and failed to assert himself as the debates went along, being reduced to an also-ran in exchanges between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. His performances lacked not only a basic understanding of his own policies but also the sense of energy and gravitas required to convince voters of a candidate’s viability for the highest office in the land.

The results out of Iowa and New Hampshire were a body blow to a candidate who had been dragged late into the race by a party desperate for a true conservative alternative to Romney. No matter how it was spun, gaining just one percent of the turnout was never going to be explained away on the basis of demographics or regional issues.

In the aftermath of Iowa, pundits had expected Perry to walk away. Instead he valiantly chose to stay in the race and threw everything he had at South Carolina. However, it is clear that with only days to go, and with his polling stuck resolutely at between 2.9 and 4 percent, that his gamble has failed. A strong second place showing may have been enough to take him into the Florida Primary with some momentum, but coming fifth was simply insufficient.

So this week sees yet another Republican exit the race with only two states having cast votes. The battle now will be for endorsements. John Huntsman’s decision to throw his support behind Mitt Romney led to a bounce of seven percent in recent days, taking the former Massachusetts governor up to 35 percent. It is widely expected that Perry will endorse former Speaker Newt Gingrich, currently in second place with 21 percent.

If conservatives wish to stop Romney, this is the moment to do so. It will require more than Perry dropping out, however. It will require Rick Santorum to place party ahead of ego. With his 13 percent polling in South Carolina he can do little other than split the vote on the right and guarantee a Romney coronation.

Only Gingrich has the national reputation and fundraising capacity to stay in the race and challenge Romney for the soul of the Republican Party in 2012. With Ron Paul’s staunch supporters remaining at between 15 and 22 percent there is a great deal still to play for in the coming months.

Dr. James D. Boys is an Associate Professor of International Political Studies at Richmond, the American International University in London. He maintains a website at www.jamesdboys.com and can be followed on twitter @jamesdboys

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