The Big Conversation:
A clearer picture of Gov. Rick Perry's abrupt about-face on Wednesday has begun to emerge.
An air of mystery still hangs over the governor's decision — announced Wednesday via Twitter, to the surprise of some of his own staff members — to stay in the presidential race after saying Tuesday, following a dismal fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, that he'd return to Texas to reassess his candidacy.
But as the Tribune's Jay Root reports, Perry's wife, Anita, and son, Griffin, strongly opposed withdrawing, according to top advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
National Journal reported Thursday that Perry's decision also hinged on the assessment of his South Carolina team, which saw the Palmetto State, with its heavy evangelical and military populations, as friendly territory for the governor.
“I think it’s a competition for the heart and soul of the conservative movement,” Katon Dawson, Perry's chief adviser in South Carolina, said of a Tuesday night conversation with the governor. “Governor Perry’s a competitor. He never lost a race.”
Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan, who confirmed that the South Carolina team played a role in the governor's apparent change of heart, also verified suspicions that the fluidity of the Republican race — which has seen virtually every candidate surge and then recede — influenced Perry's decision.
"The governor's decision was based on discussions with his family and advisers including our South Carolina team, a realistic assessment of our financial position, an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the GOP field, and a recognition that the race has been very fluid and unpredictable," Sullivan told National Journal. "Perry believes his record and plans make him uniquely able to press an outsider-based conservative reform message for Washington and the tax code; uniquely able to promote American job creation and fiscal responsibility; and uniquely able to defend fiscal, social, and tea party conservatism in South Carolina."
Whatever the reasoning, political observers and Perry supporters say the decision makes sense, given the governor's political character. After all, Perry may not even know how to lose.
“Setbacks are unknown to him,” Bill Miller, a veteran Texas lobbyist and consultant, told the Tribune. “He has no experience with it. He’s never quit, because he’s never lost.”
- The first post-Iowa poll of South Carolina shows Rick Santorum benefiting greatly from his come-from-behind win in Tuesday's caucuses. The survey, from Rasmussen Reports, shows Santorum, who was polling at just 1 percent in the state in November, at 24 percent, just 3 points behind Mitt Romney — a statistical tie, given the poll's 4-point margin of error. Gingrich is in third with 18 percent, Paul in fourth with 11 and Perry in fifth with 5.
- With the help of the $2 million that he has raised in the past 48 hours, Rick Santorum is planning a major ad buy in South Carolina — a major step for a campaign that has so far spent only $12,000 in the state and had raised just $700,000 between July and September. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. John McCain, at a rally in Charleston on Thursday with Mitt Romney, whom he endorsed this week, went after Santorum over earmark spending, for which the former Pennsylvania senator has faced criticism from his Republican rivals. "Sen. Santorum and I have a strong disagreement, a strong disagreement that he believed that earmarks and pork barrel projects were good for America," McCain said.
- Rick Santorum may be surging, but Ron Paul still has his sights set on Newt Gingrich. In a new South Carolina mailer obtained by CNN, Paul calls Gingrich a "counterfeit conservative" who has a "long record of liberal appeasement, flip-flopping on key issues, and lobbying for insider millions." As CNN notes, Paul, as in 2008, has engaged in the most aggressive South Carolina direct-mail campaign of any GOP candidate.
- The Obama administration announced Friday that it will propose a fix to a notorious immigration law that forces illegal immigrants seeking green cards to return to and spend prolonged periods of time in their home countries while trying to win legal status in the U.S. Under the new rule, an official said, illegal immigrants who are married to or are children of American citizens must still return to their home countries obtain visas, but a new waiver process could shorten the amount of time they spend outside the U.S.
"He never left the race." — Perry spokesman Mark Miner on the governor's famed Wednesday morning Tweet
- Ron Paul rally may get soldier in trouble, The Associated Press
- After Santorum Left Senate, Familiar Hands Reached Out, The New York Times
- Kelly Clarkson's 'Ron Paul Sales Bump' Debunked, The Hollywood Reporter
- Ross Ramsey: Is This Any Way to Run for President?, The Texas Tribune