To no one’s surprise, Rick Perry did not break into the top three in the Iowa caucuses Tuesday night. Instead that other Rick did. Despite Perry’s claim in recent days that he “felt good” about Iowa, he still finished fifth behind Newt Gingrich. Thanks to his diehard Occupy Everything supporters Ron Paul came in third with 21 percent of the vote. Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney were virtually tied until Romney secured just eight more votes, winning with 24.6 percent. (Never, ever say your vote doesn’t count.)
As for Perry, where does a 10 percenter go from here? Last night in his semi-concession speech he announced that he was coming back to Texas to “reassess” his long-suffering campaign, something he probably should have done weeks if not months ago. But on Wednesday morning after Michele Bachmann dropped out of the race, Perry’s campaign team said he will head to New Hampshire for the debates before going on to South Carolina.
It’s hard to imagine that Perry didn’t know he was going to lose in Iowa—and badly. On Tuesday, he pulled out the old sports metaphors, comparing the race to a marathon and the Super Bowl. Perry then likened the race to D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Speaking to hundreds of earnest campaign volunteers, Perry gave them their marching orders. “It is a powerful moment in America’s history, and you are on the front lines. This is Concord. This is Omaha Beach. This is going up the hill realizing that the battle is worth winning.”
Rallying the troops and moving forward to other states will be no easy task. In a series of interviews with Politico over the weekend, sources close to the Perry campaign told of a behind-the-scenes power struggle and an overall dysfunctional operation. One senior adviser said there has “never been a more ineptly orchestrated, just unbelievably subpar campaign for president of the United States than this one.” And that’s one of the nicer things people said.
Perry had never planned on campaigning in New Hampshire—a state in which he has no chance of placing in the top three. But the Palmetto State? That’s the promised land of true conservative evangelicals. In other words, Perry territory.
When Perry formally launched his bid for president in Charleston, South Carolina, he had no idea what a formidable Christian warrior Rick Santorum would turn out to be and that he would end up fighting him for the evangelical vote there. However it was Romney that received the coveted endorsement of Tea Party favorite Gov. Nikki Haley. On Tuesday, Perry’s campaign was reportedly buying up TV time—a strong signal that he has every intention of continuing to waste other people’s money. (Perry still has an estimated $3.5 million in cash on hand after the Iowa caucuses.)
To underscore South Carolina’s importance, since 1980 the winner of this primary has gone on to win the Republican nomination. Now Perry has to show Republicans that he can secure that conservative vote while also appearing normal enough to win the nomination. Good luck with that.