It wasn’t for lack of trying.
Rick Perry became the first casualty of the 2016 presidential campaign on Friday, when the former Texas governor ended his candidacy. The announcement was not completely a surprise; it was reported weeks ago that he had run out of money and stopped paying staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire.
He was once seen as a frontrunner. But that was four years ago.
When he dramatically entered the race, in August of 2011, he did it on the day Republicans were holding their straw poll in Ames, Iowa. How dare he draw attention to himself! There was considerable grumbling, but others saw him as a potential nominee — cocky, confident, boasting an economic success story from the nation’s largest red state.
Not long after he announced, he jumped to the top of the polls. It was during the time when Republicans were looking for an Anybody But Romney candidate, and Perry was seen as a viable alternative. But once he flubbed that memorable debate line about the three agencies he would abolish — the famous “oops” moment — it was the beginning of the end. He was out of the race in January of 2012, shortly before the South Carolina primary.
This time, if ever there was a candidate who desperately tried to make a second “first impression,” it was Perry. Determined to break free from the ridicule he received in 2011, he worked hard to be taken seriously this time out. But now it was as a former governor, and he had to watch another Texas Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz, outshine and outraise him in the Lone Star State. Never able to break through, and failing to make it into the crucial first Fox debate, his money and support — what was left of it — quickly dried up.
As lieutenant governor of Texas, he moved up when George W. Bush was elected president in 2000. He wound up serving 14 years, longer than anyone else in state history. Maybe, had he not run four years ago, he would have been able to win over voters this time around. But as it turned out, he was old news. And when he tried to work his way into the headlines, with attacks on Donald Trump, few were paying attention.
Announcing his departure on Friday, he did it without bitterness, without rancor. “I step aside knowing our party is in good hands, as long as we listen to the grassroots, listen to the cause of conservatism. If we do that, then our party will be in good hands.”