The End of Perry’s Short, Winding Road

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I have always believed the mission is greater than the man. As I have contemplated the future of this campaign, I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign.
—Rick Perry, January 19, 2012

What took you so long?

Today Rick Perry formally dropped out of the Republican race for the presidency, which he almost did after he finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses but then changed his mind on a morning jog and decided to go the distance. Well, almost the distance. After skipping New Hampshire all together—and coming in last there—Perry went on to South Carolina, the place where it all started and, rather fittingly, where it all ended.

He had hoped that South Carolina would revive his campaign, but Perry was unable to break into double digits in the polls. The newest CNN/ORC poll showed him with only six percent of the vote in South Carolina. After calls from a number of conservatives to bow out gracefully and endorse Newt Gingrich (who also called for him to step aside) in the hopes of stopping Mitt Romney, Perry did just that. Speaking at a press conference this morning, flanked by Anita and his son Griffin, Perry stayed true to his campaign slogans: Washington is broken. It’s all about state’s rights. We need bold, conservative leadership. I’m the son of tenant farmers.

But Perry’s actual endorsement of Gingrich was somewhat cryptic and downright biblical. He started off by saying Gingrich isn’t perfect and went on to say that there is “forgiveness for those who seek God.” He added that he believes in the power of redemption. Perhaps Perry used this language due to today’s allegations by Gingrich’s second wife Marianne that the former speaker wanted an “open marriage.” Aside from Gov. Bobby Jindal and God, Anita was Perry’s constant source of strength on the campaign trail. During his farewell speech, he credited the “love of his life” for being an “incredible patriot.” As a fierce advocate of traditional marriage, Perry must have had a tough time praising an admitted adulterer and an alleged swinger.

There’s no telling whether Perry’s endorsement will make a difference in Saturday’s primary and beyond. Even if all of his supporters voted for Gingrich now, that would mean Gingrich has like six more votes. With Perry out of the running, however, there’s one less distraction in Newt’s noble quest to steal the nomination away from Mitt Romney.

Where does Perry go from here? The short answer is he comes back home, maybe to run for reelection as governor. (Yes, he can still do that.) The longer answer is that he could take another shot at the presidency in 2016 if Obama wins a second term but this time with a campaign that actually knows what it’s doing. The problem with that is the campaign will still be stuck with him as a candidate. But then America does love a comeback story.