We’ve been through this before, so permit me to ask the question: Can anyone make the case that Rick Perry has a realistic shot at the Republican nomination for president? Okay, the National Journal did (sort of), but I can’t. The race for the 2016 nomination will take place in two brackets. Call one the establishment bracket, which includes Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Jon Huntsman, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Bob McDonnell. The other bracket is the tea party bracket, where the contenders include Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and, yes, Ted Cruz. This is the bracket where Perry would compete, but he has no chance to win it. Rubio, Paul, and Cruz all have substantial followings; Perry does not.
Perry was poorly received at the recent CPAC convention. The Legislature is in rebellion against him. Lawmakers are pressing for term limits (which would not apply to Perry, but are aimed at him). Efforts are in the works to limit his lavish out of state travel and require the governor to pay back travel costs that are not related to official state business. His “Texas budget compact” has garnered little support. Another shot at Perry is a proposal to prevent state officeholders from double dipping on their pensions, which Perry has been allowed to do.
These restrictions on the governor are the way state government is supposed to work. The framers of the Texas Constitution, coming out of Reconstruction, envisioned a government in which the real power belonged to the Legislature, and the executive power was divided among several officials. The governor’s powers are severely curtailed. He has the power of approval or disapproval of bills. He can convene the Legislature on extraordinary occasions. He can fill vacancies in state or district offices by appointment. He can issue pardons and commutations. He can fill the office of Secretary of State. He can inspect the accounts of officers of the Executive Department. And that’s the long and short of the governor’s list of powers.
Perry’s longevity has allowed him to amass considerable power, in that he has been able to fill every seat on every board of every state department and to insist on the loyalty of his appointees — in effect, establishing a cabinet form of government. One has to give him credit for mastering the nuances of power, and brilliantly so, to the extent that he has been all but unchallengeable since he won election to a full term in 2002. Those days are over, and what we see now from Perry is a desperate attempt to stay relevant, which is doomed to failure. This is not to say that he can’t be reelected. But his big mistake was to run for president, an office he is not qualified by talent to hold, and in doing so he exposed himself to national ridicule, from which there has been no recovery.