Despite a disappointing fifth-place finish in Tuesday night's Iowa caucuses that led Rick Perry to say he was returning home to Texas to reassess his candidacy, the Texas governor surprised everyone — including some of his own staff — by announcing this morning that he would stay in the race.
"I just said I was going to reassess," Perry told reporters gathered at an Iowa hotel this morning, after a morning run in which he made up his mind to stay in the race — and then tweeted it. "We are headed to New Hampshire and then to South Carolina."
In his brief, quickly orchestrated meeting with reporters this morning, Perry also took a shot at Iowa and its caucuses.
"This is a quirky place and a quirky process to say the least," Perry said, noting that he believed Democrats were voting in the Iowa caucuses. "We're going to go into, you know, places where they have actual primaries and there are going to be real Republicans voting."
Asked if he would change up his campaign team, on a morning when his staffers appeared largely dumbfounded about the Texas governor's plans, Perry deferred, saying it wasn't his "area of expertise." He said he would leave it up to campaign manager Joe Allbaugh.
Curiously, multiple sources close to Perry said this morning that Allbaugh was the biggest proponent of Perry leaving the campaign trail to reassess — and that first lady Anita Perry pushed for her husband to stick it out.
The news that Perry was staying in the race broke this morning in an unlikely way — from Perry's own Twitter account.
"Next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State," Perry tweeted, posting a picture of himself in jogging gear giving a thumbs up. "Here we come South Carolina!!!"
Perry's son, Griffin, followed up with his own tweet confirming his father's intentions. "See y'all next week in Carolina! I expect all my SEC brethren to come out in force," the younger Perry tweeted.
The news sent political pundits, who had all but assumed Perry was dropping out of the race, spinning. It also clearly confused some of Perry's campaign staff, many of whom were en route from Iowa to Austin.
"We are all scrambling," one staffer wrote in a text message.
Perry's campaign staff remaining in Iowa said the Texas governor intends to come home to Austin for a couple of days, head to New Hampshire for two political debates, then go to South Carolina to start campaigning there.
Asked about the apparent change of heart, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the governor "never left the race," but acknowledged that plans were "all very fluid."
"All of our friends in New Hampshire and South Carolina," Perry said to reporters, "get ready, here we come."