Back in Texas, Rick Perry Has Relationships to Repair

January 23, 2012


When Gov. Rick Perry suspended his presidential bid, he said it was because there was no “viable path forward.” But is there a viable path back?

In his five-month run for the White House, he called Turkey’s leaders “Islamic terrorists,” blasted Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s fiscal strategy as “treasonous,” and slammed gays serving openly in the military, moves that made some moderate Republicans choke on their lunch.

He offended Tea Partiers and some of his social conservative fans by saying opponents of in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants were heartless.

And he alienated big business Republicans by going after so-called “vulture capitalists,” prompting Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk show host, to compare Perry to Fidel Castro.

Publicly, Perry’s supporters say no bridges have been irreparably burned. Almost as soon as he pulled out of the race, his advisers were spinning forward, suggesting Perry could run for re-election in Texas in 2014, or take another stab at the presidency in four years.

“The governor comes back in a strong position,” Ray Sullivan, his spokesman, said in an interview at Perry’s campaign headquarters on Friday, just hours after returning from South Carolina. “To the extent that any issues need to be handled on the political side here in Texas — and I’m not sure there will be any — I’m confident that will be done quickly and effectively.”

But privately, some of Perry’s longstanding allies expressed doubts that the slate can be wiped perfectly clean — at least without some fence-mending.

“There are some people who have their noses out of joint, but the real question is, which man returns?” said Bill Miller, a political consultant based in Austin. “If it’s the presidential candidate making mistakes and offending people, he’s going to have trouble. If it’s the guy who embodies the old Rick Perry, with his ‘I love ya, let’s get Texas going again’ attitude, it’s an easy landing.”

Friends and colleagues of the governor say the Rick Perry now home in Texas is a humbled man, one who spent Friday, the day after withdrawing from the race, making phone calls to thank supporters and smooth over rough edges — a bitter pill for someone so unfamiliar with losing. They say he is relieved to be done after a fifth-place finish in first-test Iowa, a horrible finish in New Hampshire and an uphill battle in South Carolina, and is looking forward to getting back to work in the governor’s office.

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