SAN ANTONIO —
Gov. Rick Perry was a champion of fiercely conservative social activism long before the tea party was born. He oversaw the “Texas Miracle” job-creation boom and became the most powerful Texas governor since Reconstruction.
But nationally, Perry is better known for his ‘oops’ presidential debate brain freeze or for not opposing forcefully enough the notion that Texas could secede from the union. For many outside the Lone Star State, he’s a political punch line on par with Dan Quayle — if he’s known at all.
Now, the longest-serving governor in Texas history is quitting his day job. Perry announced Monday that he won’t seek a fourth full term in office next year,
“The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership. Today I’m announcing I will not seek re-election as governor of Texas,” Perry said Monday. “I will spend the next 18 months working to create more jobs, opportunity and innovation I will actively lead this great state. And I’ll also pray and reflect and work to determine my own future.”
But with another presidential run being speculated, Perry may first need to concentrate on rebuilding his tattered image with non-Texans.
“He’s starting behind the eight ball,” said South Carolina-based Republican operative Hogan Gidley, an adviser to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — both unsuccessful presidential hopefuls who have remained national conservative forces.
Perry never lost an election during his 27-year political career and became a near-instant front-runner when he strapped on his signature cowboy boots and strode into the race for the GOP presidential nomination in August 2011.
But his White House run flamed out spectacularly, culminating in a debate in Michigan where Perry remembered that he’d pledged to shutter the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Education but forgot the third one, the Department of Energy. Quipped late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon: “It turns out George Bush was actually the smart Texas governor.”