Rick Perry has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2014. When he leaves office, Perry will have served as governor of Texas for 13 years (the longest such tenure ever, I believe) and, as John Fund notes, he has a fine record. Perry kept taxes low and business regulation reasonable, and it is no coincidence that approximately 30 percent of new private-sector job creation during the last decade occurred in Texas.
Perry will also be remembered for his extremely weak run for the presidency. His lack of fluency and failure to remember his own talking points cost him dearly. Aside from that, his momentum stalled when Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum attacked him from the right on immigration issues.
Perry didn’t favor of amnesty or a path to citizenship. He was attacked from the right for supporting interstate tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants and for opposing a 2,000 mile fence (he wanted to put more “boots on the ground” and the use more “aviation assets”).
Perry’s vulnerability for taking these fairly mild immigration stances can provide a lesson to Republicans running for office in conservative jurisdictions.
Perry has not ruled out another run for president. Clearly, he would have to demonstrate quite forcefully that he’s not the same debater we saw in 2011.
In addition, Perry is less of a conservative favorite these days. In 2012, he supported the bid of his lieutenant governor for the Senate against Ted Cruz, the new conservative favorite.
Things are brighter for Perry on the immigration front, though. With so many potential Republican presidential contenders now supporting amnesty, Perry would not be stranded on the left on immigration. In fact, he could get to the right of much of the field by not supporting amnesty (to my knowledge, he hasn’t taken a position on the Senate legislation).
Perry would also win points for his pro-life stance. Under his leadership, the state legislature is on the verge of restricting late-term abortions.
But most of the 2016 Republican field will have solid pro-life credentials. So if a strong anti-amnesty conservative — Cruz, for example — enters the race, it’s difficult to identify Perry’s niche.
He wouldn’t be the establishment’s candidate; nor would he be the top choice of hard-core conservatives. His prospects would therefore be dim, even if he were able to show that he’s an able debater/campaigner.