Could Rick Perry get a Texas-sized welcome in South Carolina?
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s announcement this week that he won’t seek re-election has fueled speculation he will run again for president in what’s expected to be a wide-open GOP race.
Would you vote for Rick Perry for President in 2016? Go to postandcourier.com to vote.
Perry kicked off his 2012 presidential bid in Charleston before a convention of conservative bloggers, and he eventually ended it in North Charleston, just days before this state’s primary vote.
College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts said that failure won’t necessarily dampen Perry’s 2016 prospects: Even Ronald Reagan didn’t succeed during his first presidential bid.
“Political history is filled with examples of people not doing well the first time,” he added.
And Perry’s policies should play well in South Carolina, Knotts said. As governor, Perry has been sensitive to his state’s large bloc of Hispanic voters, a group many Republicans hope to woo.
“I think the Republicans are looking for someone who can reach out to this changing electorate,” Knotts added.
As a result, if Perry were to run for president, he could be seen as an early contender for South Carolina’s First-in-the-South primary, though it’s too early to know what that the rest of the GOP field will look like.
Katon Dawson, a former state GOP chair who was among Perry’s biggest South Carolina backers in 2012, said he talked with Perry a few weeks ago, but not about his political future.
Dawson said he hopes Perry does run again for president.
“I would encourage him to look at it, and I certainly would help him all I could,” he said. “His record in Texas has addressed challenges we have in South Carolina — growing jobs, lessening regulations on business.”
Many think Perry’s 2012 campaign was doomed by gaffes during debates, including a notorious moment where he forgot the names of the three federal agencies he wanted to see dissolved.
However, Dawson said those “oops” moments were not Perry’s main problem. He noted when he met Perry in Charleston, the governor was wearing an iron brace as he recovered from back surgery.
“He was hurt on that first run,” Dawson said. “I’m not making excuses, I’m just telling you what history shows me.”
But Perry healed during the campaign and was regaining his strength as South Carolina’s primary day approached. Dawson said the real fatal blow was opponents claiming that Perry was soft on immigration.
“People thought Gov. Perry was giving free education to illegal immigrants,” Dawson said. “That was not true. We will not make those mistakes again.”
Perry withdrew from the race just days before South Carolina’s primary and endorsed former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who won here handily over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. “That was a huge help to Newt Gingrich,” Dawson said of Perry’s backing.
Perry’s name still appeared on the state’s primary ballot, but he received only 2,534 votes out of more than 600,000 cast.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.