Tuesday night, Governor Rick Perry announced, after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses, that he was returning to Texas to reevaluate his campaign. Wednesday morning, he tweeted that he was on his way to South Carolina.
The question of the moment for Perry supporters is this: Can Perry still win?
If the behavior of the Romney and Gingrich campaigns is any indication, he certainly can.
Pro-Romney PACs ran a littany of attack ads against Gingrich in Iowa, and it’s likely these ads are partially responsible for Newt’s poor performance there. Gingrich will likely retaliate in kind in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
This gives us the prospect of a mutually-assured-destruction scenario: Romney’s been successful at assailing Gingrich, and Gingrich’s ego demands he respond with an even harsher assault. Gingrich’s legendary ability to draw proverbial blood with his comments will force Romney to escalate in turn (remember, this is the same Romney who tried to physically intimidate Rick Perry [PIC], and often tells other candidates “It’s my turn now” in debates). I predict this escalation will go back-and-forth between Mitt and Newt for quite some time.
Attack ads from both camps could have two effects: 1) Souring primary voters with the negativity of both campaigns; 2) Souring voters on both of their records.
This leaves the door open for a candidate who can distance himself from the schoolyard fighting and, by comparison, ‘look Presidential’. Who could be that candidate?
I think it’s safe to say Jon Huntsman won’t be the nominee at this point. Michele Bachmann has dropped out. Rick Santorum, despite his win in Iowa, doesn’t appear to have the organization or fundraising to last beyond Iowa. And once the closed-primary states start voting, Ron Paul is finished.
By default, it would be Rick Perry.
In order to succeed, Perry needs to rework his campaign. As Erick Erickson pointed out in this post at RedState, Rick’s reboot must include removing the under-performing people in his staff who are handicapping him.
This also means Perry’s people need to be better at disseminating information to pro-Perry bloggers, who make up the backbone of his messaging. This ties in to fundraising, too: the more the Perry message is spread, the more money comes into the campaign. It’s a simple numbers game.
If Rick Perry is the candidate we believe him to be, we’ll soon see a big turnaround in his campaign.