Sure, Rick Perry blew his chance to reboot his campaign last week and spent much of the weekend doing damage control – through humor and a quiet debate performance on Saturday night. Yes, some donors are fleeing from him. And his poll numbers have sunk even lower. But don’t expect Perry to bow out of the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination any time soon. In fact, there is still a path for him to win. Here are five reasons why Perry will stay in the race and survive his debate gaffe:
- Money. Perry’s campaign on Friday announced a $1 million ad buy on Fox News. They also plan on pouring as much as $10 million of his remaining $13 million war chest into Iowa. Despite the defection of some bundlers, Perry remains a fundraising powerhouse who will be able to afford investments other candidates can’t. If he continues to fall in the polls, he may outstrip Rudy Giuliani for the most expensive campaign waged yielding the least number of delegates. But until that happens, Perry’s money remains an advantage.
- If he backs out now, it’s so much worse. You can’t run for president and then not give it your all. If Perry walks away now, before every last option is exhausted, he’ll bear the quitter label for the rest of his life and never again be a credible candidate. It’s not going to be fun – or pretty – but Perry’s got to try and make this work for him or it will work against him.
- He’s finally getting the swing of things. Epic gaffe aside, Perry’s debate performances both on Wednesday and on Saturday night at the CBS/National Journal Commander-in-Chief debate in Spartanburg, South Carolina, were actually quite decent. He caused a stir with his assertion that foreign aid should start at zero for every country, including Israel. Perry is improving: he’s more comfortable on stage, more confident. Maybe he knows he’s now got nothing to lose. His brain-freeze comedy tour was successful and if he can start really engaging and delivering, he might just catch a wave.
- Support. Perry still has more endorsements than anyone else but Romney, including some in key states like South Carolina. Plus, he has the strong backing of his wife and family – something other candidates don’t necessarily have (ahem, Herman Cain). As Perry rediscovers his swagger and fights to salvage his campaign, there’s no greater asset than family support.
- Timing. Folks are just now starting to pay attention to the race. Traditionally, voters start to tune in and pick their horses after Thanksgiving. Newt Gingrich is peaking now. If Gingrich gets knocked off, there’s time for one, maybe two more waves before the first voting begins. Perry still has a window to the nomination if he can win Iowa and ride that momentum through South Carolina and into Florida. The anti-Mitt Romney vote is still at 70%, so there is still a pretty big opportunity for an anti-Romney to solidify that vote before Romney becomes Mr. Inevitable. It’s not the wide window of opportunity he once had, but with an improved performance, Perry can squeeze himself through it. Of course, that’s a lot of ifs. And once this window closes, Perry’s transformation into a zombie candidate will be complete.