Vol 29, Issue 2 Print Issue

The Stopped Clock

Campaign signs in a conference room at the Sheraton West Des Moines following Gov. Rick Perry's fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, 2012.
Campaign signs in a conference room at the Sheraton West Des Moines following Gov. Rick Perry's fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, 2012.

Texas politics are on hold.

Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign is on life support in South Carolina, where he's trying to thrash his way out of last place.

He's still hoping to become the leading alternative to Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, that race is changing. What was a race to reduce the field to two now appears to be a race to reduce the field to one, and to protect that one candidate from the others. That's the impulse behind this week's spin that charges from Perry and others against Romney are hurting the GOP. It's only true if Romney is the nominee. Nobody's complaining about shots at Newt Gingrich, for instance, or the ones at Rick Santorum or Ron Paul.

The window for other candidates is closing. And even with that window open, the opportunities for Perry have disappeared. If there were such a thing as a Do Not Resuscitate form for a political campaign, his loved ones would be telling his consultants to make him as comfortable as possible and stop trying to rescue him.

The conversations now are about his return to Austin and not about what it would take to put him back in the presidential race. The South Carolina primary is a week from Saturday, on January 21.

Everybody else's politics are on hold, too, and not because of Perry.

It's because of the courts and the maps.

The next legal round starts Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where a panel of federal judges will hold hearings to decide whether congressional and legislative maps approved by the Legislature conform to the Voting Rights Act. Those proceedings will go through February 3.

The primary elections are set for April 3, but it's increasingly difficult to find people who think that date will hold. The U.S. Supreme Court held hearings this week (see below) and could rule by the end of the month. Election officials are hoping to find out what maps to use and when to conduct the voting.

While we're talking dates, here's something to chew on: The next legislative session starts about year from now.