Since Gov. Rick Perry abandoned the fetid remains of his failed presidential bid last January, he has socked away $1.94 million in political contributions, bringing the total amount of ching deposited with Texans for Rick Perry, his political action committee, to $3.4 million, according to recent campaign contribution reports.
This has raised several important questions, the most important one being: Does this mean Rick's not going anywhere? If the cash is any indication, it looks that way. Whether Perry decides to run for an unprecedented fourth term or not (campaign slogan: Rick Perry: Why not?), this amount of money means Perry isn't fading into the night. He's here to stay -- for now, at least. Here are three possibilities:
Governor For Life Perry, 64, who's already held his gubernatorial chair longer than anyone ever has in Texas, hasn't officially announced he's running yet, and, granted, we're still two years away from the election. But at this time during the last electoral cycle, in 2008, Perry had $2.9 million in his coffers, less than he does now. He brought that cash to bear during a bruising primary clash against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison before trouncing Bill White in the general election. This time around, he may have to contend with Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who will have ample ammunition against Rick.
It's been a tough year for the governor. He got humiliated on the national level in the GOP Republican primaries, has allowed ideology to trump economics in his governance and then backed the diffident David Dewhurst for the Republican Senate ticket only to get out-conservatived by the insurgent Ted Cruz.
Still, he's got that stubborn streak about him. Why not give it another go? "We thought he wouldn't serve beyond ten years and now it seems he'll serve over 14," says Houston political consultant Marc Campos. "It might be too late for him to find a second career. He's comfortable being governor. It's all he knows how to do.
"And he could be raising money just to say, 'Hey, if you're going to run against me, come and get it. The Texas way. Come and get it."
Don't Forget About Rick Politics is a game of momentum. And if Perry ever announces he's not coming back for another show, his perceived power would plummet faster than the European Union's chances for solvency. Even on the outside chance Perry decides not to run for governor again, he needs to at least bluff like he will. He's still got a few more legislative sessions to go, and if in November, President Obama wins re-election but Perry's Tea Partiers gain in ferocity and numbers -- and mutiny against him, which they may -- he'll need to appear strong. The Tea Party is an unpredictable vein of the Republican party.
"As long as he's got a few mil," Campos said, "he can remain relevant."
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The Power Broker? This one isn't all that likely. Let's be honest with ourselves: Rick Perry, he's no grand schemer, hatching intrigue under a cloak of anonymity. He's a player. Dude's got Texas swagger and bankrolling other political candidates -- amassing power that way -- doesn't jibe with the Perry ethos. Still, there's a chance this will allow Rick Perry to become Rick Perry full time. Right now, he still has some of the trappings of the governor's mansion -- but without it? He'll only need to mold his cult of personality, melt into the Fox News cycle and cherry-pick his favorites for campaign donations.
Campos said the only Texan who could play power broker in the state is Ted Cruz. But he may not be ready, Campos said, judging from his performance on Meet The Press. Still, "he turned the establishment upside down" in the runoff election, he said.
Perry lost too much prestige in Dewhurst's loss, and has come to represent that establishment. The Tea Party controls Texas politics, and somehow, Perry -- the government-hatin', Bible-totin', freedom-defendin' politician -- has lost them.