Perry's struggles overshadow a good day in NH
CONCORD, N.H.—At least Wednesday was a good day for Rick Perry.
The Texas governor, who is facing new questions about turmoil within his mistake-prone presidential campaign, was repeatedly interrupted by applause as he delivered a booming speech to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. For 14 minutes, the first-in-the-nation primary state glimpsed the candidate once considered a front-runner in the race for his party's presidential nomination.
"He looked and sounded presidential," said Josh Davenport, a Republican state representative from Newmarket. "It left me more confident in his abilities."
But one good day does not revive a campaign stuck in neutral, especially as Perry faces new questions about a staff shakeup, fundraising struggles, and scathing criticism from one of New Hampshire's most prominent conservative voices. Staffers privately cite internal finger pointing. And Perry himself acknowledges a shift among his senior staff, even while denying a report that he's demoted his top political strategist and campaign manager.
"The best I can tell, everybody's working hard and getting the work done," Perry told reporters following a New Hampshire campaign stop earlier in the week.
Perry said he's asked Joe Allbaugh, a veteran of the George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani presidential campaigns, to play a prominent role in his operation.
"He's the make-the-trains-run-on-time guy," Perry said.
Perry's precipitous rise and fall has been remarkable. In August, he roared to top-tier status after joining the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Soon, however, struggles on the debate stage were fueling a downturn.
Perry insulted conservatives who questioned his immigration policies, calling them "heartless" in a nationally televised debate. He's been apologizing ever since. And he may be forever remembered for a debate gaffe earlier in the month when he couldn't remember one of the three government agencies he pledged to eliminate if he were president.
Perry stumbled again this week when talking to New Hampshire college students, mistakenly suggesting the voting age is 21 instead of 18.
"He has shown in the last five months that he is woefully unprepared to run for president," New Hampshire Union Leader editorial page editor Drew Cline wrote this week. "That's not just my assessment, but the assessment of most Republican and Republican-leaning voters."
Money has been Perry's saving grace.
His campaign banked more than $17 million in the first seven weeks after joining the race, outraising all his rivals. But Perry's staff concedes that fundraising has fall off. And because he's been buying national and state-focused television advertising in recent weeks, it's unclear how much money he has left.
For now, his staff is privately convinced that he raised enough early on to make payroll and continue to run television advertising in the short term. But in New Hampshire at least, Perry's initial round of state-focused television advertisements have come and gone. His staff couldn't immediately say when Granite State voters should expect to see another Perry ad, if at all.
Publicly, the Perry team is optimistic.
"One of the amazing things to me is that people are hanging together and hanging tight," said Perry's New Hampshire consultant, Paul Young. "We haven't had any major defections from supporters. I think we're on the upswing."
Perry's performance at the New Hampshire State House may have helped. He left the House chamber to a standing ovation from the Republican majority.
Davenport was asked whether the speech was enough to give Perry serious consideration.
"Well," he said, before a long pause. "I was pleased to see he was in complete command of all the facts."