Texas Governor Rick Perry has been sending some mixed signals in the past 24 hours. After finishing in fifth place with 10.3% of the 2012 Iowa caucus vote results, he told the crowd at his campaign headquarters that he was going home to Texas to ″assess″ a ″way forward.″ His flight to South Carolina was canceled and it looked very much like he was going to bow out and quickly. Perhaps before the weekend or next Tuesday′s New Hampshire primary. This would have been a big boost to Rick Santorum, who went from zero-to-hero literally tied with Mitt Romney in Iowa last night. Michele Bachmann, who finished behind Perry with just 5% of the vote, sounded last night as if she would carry on, but then dropped out this morning. Meanwhile, Rick Perry tweeted a strange message on his Twitter account about going on to ′the Palmetto State′, South Carolina. For several hours there was buzz and confusion.
Initially, it looked last night like Perry was ready to fall on his sword and take one for the team. But the team said, ″NO!″ While it may have been advantageous for Santorum to have Perry exit early, there are still plenty of Conservatives who like the Texas governor, such as myself, and believe that he does have a message and a role to play in this election cycle. So what we have here is a clear signal from Perry that while he knows he is lagging behind for now, and will leave the game when the cards say so, it is too early to go. He has at lest one more spin at the wheel and the money to make the bet.
After all, Perry, unlike Santorum, has a sizable campaign war chest. With some $3-4 Million dollars left over after Iowa, he can still wage a TV ad campaign in South Carolina. How far this will take him into Florida is another story, but Perry is looking to fight one primary at a time. A lot can happen during the next few weeks.
Rick Santorum is riding the whirlwind for the moment, boosted by his near victory in Iowa. If they ever find those missing ballots, he may still be declared the actual winner when the Iowa caucuses are certified in about two weeks. In any normal election, with over 122,000 votes cast and the difference between 1st and 2nd being 8 votes, an automatic recount would be in order. Mitt Romney may have appeared to have finished in first place, but his numbers did not improve since 2008. Santorum could be said to be the real winner, especially since he fought it out with very little money, practicing old fashioned retail politics instead. Others might say Santorum merely benefited as being the last man standing after every other Conservative candidate imploded.
So with Texas Governor Rick Perry staying in the fight, at least through South Carolina, what role will he play in the 2012 GOP presidential race? With the Iowa caucus results in, Perry did do a bit better than many people expected. Unlike Newt Gingrich, who finished fourth, Perry actually did win in two counties, which is more than Newt can say. Will Perry focus his attention on attacking Santorum? Gingrich? Will he join Newt and Jon Huntsman in tearing down Mitt Romney? Or will he keep pitching that he is the best remaining candidate with an actual record of economic growth for Texas, a state which is practically a national economy on its own? Can Perry get people to take a second look at him and convince them that he will represent their interests best?