SAN ANTONIO —
It wasn’t the first time Perry’s mouth had gotten him into trouble. Ending a television interview in 2005, Perry smirked at the camera and signed off: “Adios, mofo.”
Asked about secession after a tea party rally in April 2009, Perry quipped: “If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that?”
Those incidents, however, did little to lessen Perry’s influence in Texas, where he is considered the most powerful governor since the Civil War.
Perry, who took office when then-Gov. George W. Bush left for the White House in December 2000, set the tone for his tenure the following June — vetoing more than 80 bills in what became known in Austin as the “Father’s Day Massacre.” Since then, he vetoed scores of other would-be laws, including a $35 billion public education budget and a ban on executing mentally disabled inmates.
But most of Perry’s power has come from his sheer longevity. He remained in office long enough to tap loyalists — and sometimes even his top donors — to every major appointed post statewide.
“He’s made the state into his personal fiefdom,” said Matt Glazer, a Democratic consultant and head of the liberal advocacy group Progress Texas. “Nationally, that evaporates and you have voters who are more sophisticated.”
Still, Gidley and others note that Perry has been successful at appearing regularly on national television — even attracting a great deal of media attention in his recent job-poaching tours of California, Illinois and New York as he tried to convince firms to relocate to Texas.
Perry also still has his TV anchorman good looks — he’s often dubbed “Governor Good Hair.” He has been a ferocious fundraiser buoyed by both grassroots activists and mainstream Republicans while presiding over a flourishing Texas economy.