Rick Perry barely had time to finish his ice cream before setting out for Washington, D.C., and New Hampshire this weekend.
There’s no doubt that his sights are firmly set out of state where he hopes to spend the first half of 2015 rebuilding his national brand while at the same time untethered from any governing responsibilities back home for the first time in more than a decade.
Then those two felony indictments got dropped on his plate, potentially complicating version 2.0 of his run for the White House.
Recent political history suggests the legal endgame plays out either quickly, a la Kay Bailey Hutchison in 1993, or very, very slowly, as in Tom DeLay, whose fight against charges first brought in 2005 still hasn’t been fully resolved.
Perry has been upfront about saying he made a mistake in waiting too long to jump into the presidential field in 2011. Therefore, it would seem critical for Team Perry to figure out a way to resolve his legal questions as quickly as possible.
Perry presumably would have no interest in having an unresolved indictment hanging over him while reintroducing himself to Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Voters there cast ballots in January 2016. Candidates serious about capturing those early bellwether contests will be saturation bombing those states by about this time next year.
Last time, Perry made the calculation that he could wait until midsummer to jump in. But he learned the hard way that running for president is a lot harder than running for statewide office.
Perry could be looking to follow the Mitt Romney model this time around. Romney never really stopped campaigning after his failed 2008 bid for the Republican nomination, showing up to stump for candidates while keeping up his national profile until he was ready to officially announce for the 2012 race in the spring of 2011.
Perry is busy doing candidate support work this weekend in New Hampshire. He’s appearing at two days of events with the New Hampshire GOP, including a rally on Saturday morning.
In other words, he’s busy now building momentum. Working the calendar back suggests that a candidate serious about capturing the nomination would at the very least have an exploratory campaign committee active by early spring.
The challenge, then, for Team Perry moving forward is in reconciling the rapidly approaching deadlines of a presidential campaign with the more unpredictable timeframe of a high-profile, politically fraught criminal case.