What an amazing turn of events. It started out as an ordinary speech by a losing candidate. Rick Perry thanked Iowa, he thanked his supporters, he thanked his family, and he read a letter from a young man who had driven from Texas to work in the campaign, all of it routine stuff. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t routine any more. Perry made the startling announcement that he will return to Texas on Wednesday to assess the results of the Iowa caucuses, in which he finished a distant fifth. “With a little prayer and reflection, I’m going to decide the best path forward,” Perry said. I was totally stunned. I never expected him to surrender. Just a few hours earlier, he had told CNN he intended to fight a fifty-state campaign. Now it appears that he is getting out of the race. I could not help but think of Lyndon Johnson, speaking to the nation on March 31, 1968, when he concluded his remarks to the country with, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”
Is Perry history? It would seem so. It’s hard to imagine a reassessment that would result in his resuming his campaign. He could start over, moving forward with a new team, but he has already tried that once, and the new team had no chemistry. Move forward to what? He is nowhere in New Hampshire and in single digits in South Carolina. Florida is no better. He’s done.
As others have pointed out, Perry is still governor, and will be until his term expires in January 2015. Unless he decides to run again, the 2013 legislative session will be his last. In a perfect world, Perry would settle back into the governor’s office and try to redeem himself for the damage he has inflicted on Texas during the ten years of his governorship. The budget is in shambles, the schools have been starved of funds, teachers have been laid off, the health care infrastructure is rickety, the state water plan went unfunded in a drought of historic proportions, and the state’s two flagship universities have been under attack by the governor’s office. Perry could undo some of the consequences of his policies, but the best thing he can do for Texas in the time left to him is to resign.