There are three extremely important things to know about Rick Perry. First, as the longest-tenured governor of Texas in the history of this great state—he served from 2001 until 2015—he was incredibly effective, signing into law a litany of GOP priorities as he oversaw the state’s economic boom and casting a shadow that continues to loom over the Lege. Second, as a presidential candidate, he was wildly, hilariously out of his depth. He entered the 2012 GOP primary to great fanfare but quickly dropped out of the race, a cautionary tale of a successful and buzzworthy statewide officeholder shriveling in the harsh light of national attention. His 2016 campaign, which he entered without the advantage of such enthusiasm, lasted fewer than a hundred days. And third, the uh, um, what’s the third one? Oops.

On Sunday, Perry let slip to CNN anchor Jim Acosta that he was considering a third run for the presidency. Incredible! We’re so lucky. 

A lot has changed since Perry was last relevant, either to Texans or to the national GOP. More than three million current Texans did not live here during Perry’s time in office. Texans under thirty weren’t even able to vote when Perry was considered a front-runner for the GOP nomination for the presidency. Even so, Perry’s name carries enough force that during last year’s GOP primary, a random guy who happened to share his name was recruited to challenge Greg Abbott, almost certainly to mess with the genuine article’s successor. 

What made Perry such a potent governor? The sheer duration of time he spent in government—he was first elected to the Lege in 1984, a fresh-faced 34-year-old Democrat (!) with a great haircut—made him friends and allies. Recognizing shifting political sands, Perry switched parties, in 1989, to run for agriculture commissioner, with the help of Karl Rove. After two terms as commissioner, in 1998 he pursued the office of lieutenant governor, where Texas politicos knew the real power lived. When George W. Bush resigned his post as governor after winning* the 2000 presidential election, Perry married the power invested in the lieutenant governor’s office with the title and prestige of the governorship. He did this by appointing friends and allies (and future friends and allies), seeding lawyers and policymakers throughout the state government. Those appointments don’t come up all at once, but because of Perry’s longevity, there was scarcely an office in the state that wasn’t stacked with folks who owed him their career. He used this power to help mold the Lege in his own image and ticked off a wish list of Bush- and Obama-era GOP priorities, claiming credit and reaping the rewards. When he announced his 2012 presidential campaign, it appeared as though he had so fully conquered Texas that he needed a national run just to give himself a challenge. 

And then, of course, he ran for president and oopsied himself into the annals of candidate infamy. Perry’s most iconic moment on the national stage was during a debate, when he declared that he was an even more ambitious government-slasher than Ron Paul, vowing to eliminate three federal agencies, only two of which he could actually name when asked, ending the entire cringeworthy brain fart with a timid “oops.” But that wasn’t the only moment that exposed the longtime governor as a political lightweight. He delivered a rambling campaign speech in New Hampshire in which he babbled about tomcats and buried gold, ending by clutching a bottle of maple syrup to his chest like a baby. 

His public speaking stumbles were notable, but so too was his lack of a coherent policy platform—he didn’t have an economic plan; his relatively compassionate immigration stance, which, for the conservative governor of a border state, should have been a strength, became a liability; he reversed course on science-based public health policies he implemented as governor, such as mandating the HPV vaccine, calling that move a “mistake.” He sounded like a doofus, campaigned like a doofus, and had the consistency and vision (despite his “take me seriously!” glasses) of a doofus. In 2012 Perry was this magazine’s Bum Steer of the Year. By August 2011 his poll numbers were underwater even in his home state (that month, his favorability in Texas was lower than Obama’s). After dropping out of the race, he threw his support behind the Senate campaign of his lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst, only to find that his vaunted political power had dried up: Dewhurst lost the primary to a tea party insurgent named Ted Cruz. Oops. 

When Perry returned to the presidential stage four years later, did he cut a more sober figure? Nope! He entered the race to the roar of a hilarious country-rap-rock tune that started with the lyrics “Rick Perry supporter / let’s protect our border / to hell with anyone who don’t believe in the USA / Rick Perry all the way.” His poll numbers were so dismal that he spent that year’s GOP debates at the “kids’ table,” where he and other low-polling candidates served as the warm-up act to Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Cruz, among many (many, many) others. Perry didn’t embarrass himself, because no one was really paying attention. After just 99 days, he was the first declared candidate of 2016 to end his campaign. Texas Monthly’s Dave Mann praised Perry for his self-awareness in recognizing his hopeless cause and bowing out with dignity, a classic case of being damned with faint praise. 

The failed 2016 presidential bid was seen as the end of Perry’s political career, if not his career in government, though he did go on to compete on Dancing With the Stars, where he was bested in the second round by Vanilla Ice. After calling Trump “a cancer on conservatism,” Perry reversed his position and offered his endorsement. Post-election, he was rewarded for his newfound fealty with the position of secretary of energy. Perry seemed a natural fit for the role, as the longtime governor of an oil and gas state, until a story in the New York Times revealed that when he threw his hat in the ring for the job, he had no idea that its chief responsibility was to serve as steward of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. He held the office for nearly three years—a lifetime for a Trump cabinet appointee—and no nukes went off, so we’ll consider that a win in Perry’s corner. 

Since then, Perry’s name has appeared in the news only sporadically. In late 2021 the January 6 select House committee investigated text messages Perry reportedly sent to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows urging an “aggressive” strategy of demanding that GOP-controlled state legislatures send their own slates of electors to Congress in an attempt to invalidate the 2020 election. Last year, Perry registered as a lobbyist for the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, which backed a resolution that passed the state House last week but is almost certain to die in the Senate. He’s also thrown his weight behind advocating for the legalization of psychedelic drugs for therapeutic use. Seems like he’s having fun! 

Rick Perry would probably have even more fun running for president in 2024. He must get something out of it to keep running, after all. Is there a constituency for him? It’s hard to imagine who could possibly be in it, at least while Donald Trump is in the race. But on the other hand, it’s a low-risk proposition for Perry. What’s the worst that could happen—he’ll fail to get sports betting through the Texas Senate again? If he runs, he could commission a new campaign song and maybe get another bottle of precious maple syrup. Despite his formidability as governor, that’s about where Perry’s presidential ambitions have always landed.