The Big Conversation:
One question has sprung from many minds since Rick Perry's stunning reversal on Wednesday: What's the governor thinking?
After announcing on Tuesday night, following his dismal fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, that he'd return to Texas to reassess his candidacy, Perry shocked onlookers — and even some of his own staff members — when he announced on Twitter (with jogging picture in tow) that he'd stay in the presidential race.
"We are all scrambling," one Perry staffer wrote in a text message to the Tribune. Perry spokesman Mark Miner was overheard saying, "He tweeted we're going on to South Carolina. Every reporter in the world is calling."
As Perry later told reporters at an Iowa hotel Wednesday morning, "I just said I was going to reassess." The governor also took a thinly veiled shot at Iowa, whose caucus-goers the night before had given him just 10 percent of the vote: "This is a quirky place and a quirky process to say the least," he said. "We're going to go into, you know, places where they have actual primaries and there are going to be real Republicans voting."
So what's going through the governor's head? As the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reports, strategists and observers have a few theories.
For instance, while social conservative favorite Rick Santorum mounted a last-minute surge in Iowa, fighting Mitt Romney to a virtual draw on Tuesday night, it's unclear whether he'll have the money and organization to compete with front-runner Romney in states like South Carolina and Florida. Santorum also has yet to come under the intense scrutiny of his rivals and the media. "Clearly in the light of day (and a decent night sleep), he realized that Santorum hasn't been run through the political meat grinder yet," Republican strategist Mary Matalin said of Perry.
As for Perry's other rivals, Ron Paul lacks mainstream appeal, and Newt Gingrich, undone in Iowa by a barrage of negative ads, needs money. Perry, supporters say, may be the only candidate with the mettle to challenge Romney.
The governor may also see South Carolina, with its heavy evangelical and military populations, as just the place for a comeback story. "South Carolina has epitomized the rationale of the Perry campaign," said Jim Henson, a political scientist at the University of Texas. "Perry’s probably thinking if he’d had a couple of other months in Iowa, they would’ve seen the light there like he hopes they’re going to in South Carolina."
Then there's the Tim Pawlenty factor. The former Minnesota governor dropped out of the race in August after a poor showing at the Iowa Straw Poll — only to see virtually every candidate left in the race take turns surging as many conservatives sought a viable alternative to Romney. Perry may simply be looking to avoid the same fate.
- Politico reports that Ron Paul raised $13 million in the fourth quarter of 2011 — an impressive sum that will likely keep him viable for several months in the Republican primary fight. Paul's haul was bested only by Mitt Romney, who is said to have brought in more than $20 million.
- The state argued in an appeals court on Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks exceeded his authority when he blocked Texas' abortion sonogram law from taking effect, The Associated Press reports. Sparks ruled in August that parts of the law, which was passed during last year's legislative session, violated doctors' free-speech rights. Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell argued that the state's interest in protecting fetal life overrides any such First Amendment concerns.
"Not that there aren’t real Republicans here in Iowa, but the fact it is was a pretty loosey-goosey process." — Rick Perry, who said Wednesday that Democrats voting in the Iowa on Tuesday skewed the caucus results
- Karl Rove: A Big Win for Romney in Iowa, The Wall Street Journal
- The 5 key questions of the Republican presidential race, The Washington Post
- The 25% Solution: How Romney Plans To Finish By Florida, Time
- Iowa Turnout Barely Tops 2008 Number as Voter Enthusiasm Muted, Bloomberg