With Rick Perry’s chosen candidate Newt Gingrich ending his campaign soon, the governor of Texas swung his support to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney Wednesday.
This news was so surprising and important that it didn’t even make the home page of the Austin American-Statesman as of early Thursday morning. (The Texas Tribune had it as a top story, while the Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle ran blog posts.)
“[I]n retrospect, the primary race stopped being a true competition when the Texas governor faltered, despite the fact that it lasted for months after the fact,” wrote Maggie Haberman of Politico. “Regardless, there are few stronger signs of coalescing behind Romney.”
Perry’s official endorsement (on his old campaign website) read:
Mitt Romney has earned the Republican Presidential nomination through hard-work, a strong organization, and disciplined message of restoring America after nearly four years of failed job-killing policies from President Obama and his administration,” said Governor Perry. “So today I join the many conservative Republicans across the nation in endorsing Mitt Romney for President and pledge to him, my constituents and the Republican Party that I will continue to work hard to help defeat President Obama. American jobs, economic stability and national security depend on electing a new president. Mitt ‘s vision and record of private sector success will put America back on the path of job creation, economic opportunity and limited government.
It is of course, SOP for one-time primary competitors to put past attacks behind them come the general election. But Perry had been pretty hard on Romney, whether accusing him of vulture capitalism, calling him out for being a flip-flopper, or attacking the former Massachusetts governor’s support for an individual health insurance mandate, which gave us the one classic Perry debate moment that wasn’t his own screw-up:
Back when he initially endorsed Newt Gingrich, Perry told Newsmax, “Mitt’s been a very successful businessman, but the idea that you can transform your experiences as a private sector businessman into working in Washington doesn’t necessarily translate.” However, he also said “any of our candidates are going to be better than Obama.”
On Twitter, Romney welcomed the last remaining major former Republican presidential candidate—so long as Ron Paul keeps going—to join his team.
Great to have @GovernorPerry‘s support. Looking forward to working with him – a lot to be done before November.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) April 26, 2012
But as the Atlantic‘s David Graham noted, event as recently as last week, when Perry said “If Mitt Romney is in fact our nominee, I’m going to be working hard and supporting him,” the governor also didn’t rule out running for the presidency again in 2016, a position that implies Romney would not be the incumbent president and nominee himself.
According to a Public Policy Polling survey released this week, the writing was on the wall for Romney here in Texas even before his Tuesday wins in Pennsylvania and four other states. While Rick Santorum (like Perry before him) had once been the Texas front-runner, Romney was leading Gingrich 45 percent to 35 percent (with Ron Paul at fourteen percent).
As PPP’s Tom Jensen wrote:
Texas really shows the extent to which GOP voters have unified around Romney over the last few weeks. When we polled the state in January Republicans were evenly divided in their feelings about him with 44% rating him favorably and 44% giving him poor marks. Now his favorability is a +43 spread at 66/23. That’s very much indicative of people jumping on board the train.
The poll did have one quirk that suggest Perry’s endorsement might not be that potent. While Romney also led President Barack Obama among Texans in a theoretical general election, Jensen said that on the “very, very off chance” that Rick Perry became Romney’s running mate, that advantage would be reduced from 50-43 to 50-45.