Texas Governor Rick Perry is dropping out of the presidential race. This is not a surprise. His poll numbers quickly crashed after his initial splash in August. This was largely due to disastrous debate performances.
As the high profile governor of a large state with both social conservative and Tea Party cred, it was assumed that the well-financed Perry would be a strong contender against Mitt Romney and an otherwise apparently weak GOP field. Particularly given that he had money, I think we will be using Perry as an example of a poor presidential bid for a while to come. Heck, he was out done by supposed “has-beens” like Gingrich and Santorum.
The interesting thing about Perry’s departure is not the departure itself, but his endorsement of Newt Gingrich two days before the South Carolina primary. Newt has surged in South Carolina. While he is still behind Mitt Romney, he appears to be the main contender.
Endorsements are a tricky thing. They are largely irrelevant. However, I think that Perry backing Gingrich could have an impact in a number of ways:
First, even a small bounce right before the S.C. primary can make a difference. Had Perry done this right after Iowa (as it seemed he might), his endorsement might not have had all that direct of an impact on South Carolina this Saturday.
Second, while Perry has been polling at 4 to 5 percent in recent South Carolina polls, he has polled well there in the past. I do not think that South Carolina Republicans have changed their mind about agreeing and respecting Perry, they just lost confidence in him as the party standard-bearer.
Third, the right has failed to put out a unified challenge to Romney. This is partially because Romney has swung hard to the right. Also, the more conservative candidates have run rather disorganized campaigns. A group of Christian Right leaders had a conclave last weekend and decided to back Santorum (the other candidate they were considering was Newt). Yet, the announcement seems to have had little impact. The endorsement of Gingrich by Perry may serve to throw support behind Gingrich. I think that the average South Carolina voter in 2012 is paying more attention to Rick Perry that they are Gary Bauer.
Gingrich is a Southern boy and I think this gives him an edge over Santorum in South Carolina. If Newt does not win South Carolina….it is all over. While I do not want Newt to be the nominee, these recent developments have me excited. I always like watching a good game.