Could Governor Rick Perry stage a triumphant comeback and upset national frontrunner Mitt Romney? Well, that depends. 

“Rick Perry’s reconsideration of his role in the Republican nomination race appears to have been genuine,” writes Five Thirty Eight numbers guru Nate Silver at the New York Times. “If there is some concerted effort to help Mr. Perry — if conservative elites rally to his defense and publicly promote the idea that he still has the best chance of stopping Mr. Romney — the rules of the game might be different, and Mr. Perry might have a chance of winning (South Carolina).”

As an anonymous Perry-affiliated source told Silver’s Times colleagues Nicholas Confessore and Katharine Q. Selye, “The reality is, not one delegate was committed yesterday. We are still early enough in the process that if the candidate has the drive to go forward, he ought to. If we can get this back to a Perry versus Romney field, Perry can win.”

“Can he win? Yes. And should he stay in? Absolutely,” says Red State blogger Erick Erickson, who suggested that Perry fire both his longtime campaign consultant David Carney and relative newcomer Joe Allbaugh. (But if that’s the case, who’s going to do the firing? “I don’t have any idea,” Perry told reporters, including the Austin American-Statesman‘s Jason Embry, when asked about possible staff changes. “That’s not my area of expertise.”)

While Erickson, like the candidate himself, does not consider Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich to be true small-government conservatives, other bloggers see Perry as the fly in the right-wing buttermilk.

“We have a true opportunity to have some real change in the White House yet Governor Perry continues to bash Rick Santorum which only really helps Governor Mitt Romney,” Phil Kammer at The Stump Report presciently griped on Monday.

And on Wednesday, Brent Budowsky at the Hill wrote that “If Rick Perry was a legitimate conservative (which I always warned he was not) he would have dropped out of the campaign today and endorsed Rick Santorum, Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich.” Budowsky added that perhaps Romney, who stands to gain the most from Perry’s continued campaign, had promised the governor “a position in his administration, such as undersecretary of Agriculture.”

“Perry’s move was akin to dumping a bucket of cold water on Santorum,” opined Politico‘s Jonathan Martin, who also quoted a Romney advisor’s reaction to Perry’s staying in the race: “A gift that keeps giving.”

Perry’s full comments to reporters are in the video below, with analysis from the Austin American-Statesman‘s Ken Herman: