Good morning Austin:
The last time Rick Perry ran for president, he got in the race too late, he was just coming off back surgery, and he was not sufficiently prepared. Oops. This time, he’s been laying the groundwork for months – prepping, studying and traveling – he’s healthy, and he’s even shed that occasional time-suck of a job as governor.
But there’s this indictment that just won’t go away. Yesterday, it wouldn’t go away again. The outcome was not unexpected. It was not big news outside of Texas because what happened didn’t really change things. But, with the first debate in the Republican nominating process now set for August, yesterday’s events were a bracing reminder that Rick Perry has a serious time management problem.
This morning at 11 at the Omni downtown: Gov. Rick Perry will deliver a statement regarding the Travis County Court’s ruling. The governor will be joined by members of his legal team.
Here’s the top of what Tony Plohetski wrote in today’s Statesman:
A judge denied a second, more substantial request Tuesday by former Gov. Rick Perry to dismiss the indictment against him prior to trial, likely extending his criminal case for the next several months as Perry continues to mount a possible presidential campaign.
The ruling by Judge Bert Richardson, a San Antonio Republican, comes five months after Perry’s attorneys filed their motions, a sign of the slow speed at which the case is churning through the criminal justice system. Perry’s attorneys immediately filed court documents saying they would appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the 3rd Court of Appeals.
“I think it does cloud everything, “ said SMU political scientist Cal Jillson. “With these criminal charges still hanging over his head, anyone who had any doubt at all would now let those doubts decide them, as a donor or an activist, to stay way from Perry and pick from among the other candidates.”
Jillson said an actual trial, no matter the outcome, would not be a pretty sight. “You’ll have Perry’s closest associates from the governor’s office testifying as to what Perry said and did, and what kind of offers he made, and what kind of counter-offers came from Lehmberg’s office. That’s very messy and the danger for Perry is that, if there is a trial, he and his cronies will be forced to described how the sausage is made.”
“Donors have other options, and activists who are not longtime members of Team Perry have other options,” Jillson said.
He said Perry can continue to appear on the campaign trail, but even if he acquits himself well, the indictment will be hanging over him and serving as a distraction at a time when he needs to be single-mindedly focused on the campaign to succeed.
“From this moment forward to that first debate (in August) you’ve got to build your infrastructure and your team and ID your donors and develop them and be out on the stump around the country and you have to have clarity of mind and focus,” Jillson said.
Yesterday’s decision will likely deny him that clarity and focus.
“He’s a way better candidate than he was in 2012. He’s charismatic he’s got the looks, that sort of cowboy swagger that Republicans seem to like, so there are a lot of positives,” said Kirby Goidel, a communications professor at Texas A & M. But Goidel said the Republican field seems too thick with choices for Perry to gain or maintain the loyalty of givers and activists with this big a question mark hovering over his candidacy.
With so many choices, Republicans are looking for ways to winnow the field, and Perry’s continuing legal jeopardy is a very easy and obvious disqualifier.
And things were going so well.
Ross Ramsey put his finger on it at the Texas Tribune,
Everything’s been coming up roses for Rick Perry, but beneath every rose is a pile of manure.
His attempt to snuff out a pesky indictment — what his lawyers call a politically motivated attack from prosecutors in a persistently Democratic county — has been denied. A trial judge in Austin said Tuesday that the case should proceed. And that ruling lands just as the former governor began to gain some traction for his bid for the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential race.
Just as he is gaining some credibility, he is running out of time.
Also, not being governor comes with a cost.
Donors, who once might have been inclined to give to Perry even if they thought his chances of actually going all the way were slim, because at the very least he would still be governor, now have little incentive to give.
Meanwhile, the unfolding of the contracting scandal at the state’s Health and Human Services Commission – a story which seems potentially centipedian in its legs – threatens to tarnish Perry’s legacy, especially in the context of his indictment.
“One of the most dangerous periods for a governor after he leaves offices are those first weeks and months when they’re out of office and someone else is making decisions and if anything doesn’t smell right, it is in the interests of the successor to pin it on his predecessor,” Jillson said.
But mostly it’s about time.
Many of Perry’s putative Republican presidential rivals indicated they had his back.
Chris Christie posted his support on Facebook.
Governor Rick Perry is a good man and has my full confidence. #StandWIthRick https://www.rickpac.org/share-your-voice/stand-rick-perry/
His successor, Gov. Greg Abbott, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton, leapt to his defense.
Here from Patrick:
I am extremely disappointed that the case against Governor Rick Perry will continue. Gov. Perry is a dedicated public servant who served our state with integrity and in the best interest of Texans.
I believe he was within his constitutional authority to make the statement he made and to veto the funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Office.
The decision to indict Governor Perry was wrong and undermines our democratic principles and separation of powers. These actions have a chilling effect on the legislative process and on every member of the legislature and executive branch.
We have a duty and a right as office holders to question any official funded by taxpayers. We have a responsibility to withhold funding from any official or agency that we deem is not acting in the best interest of the public.
Harold Cook, a long-time Democratic consultant and pundit, wrote on Facebook:
Politically, Rick Perry‘s indictment is now officially a crippling issue. Difficult to see how he’s viable in a Presidential run for very long, with criminal indictments pending. With the judge’s ruling today, it’s likely that the last quick resolution to his indictment has left the building. Appealing the ruling will probably take months. Preparing for trial even longer than that.
And I remain amused at all the Democrats who fully believe he’s guilty of all charges, and all the Republicans who fully believe he’s innocent as the driven snow, all before the prosecution has laid out the first piece of evidence such that anybody could have a valid opinion either way.
If it was me I would want to get the case in the court as fast as possible.
Now they are making it look like he did something wrong and they are trying to beat it with lawyer tricks.
Get a jury, walk in to court, put Perry on the stand and he tells them.
“I was the Governor of Texas, The DA of Travis County got caught driving drunk, then made a total fool of herself on camera, and she should have resigned. As governor I said I would veto the money if she was still in the office. She did not resign, she was in the office, I VETOED the funding.”
Here is a video of her being drunk and disorderly, here is a video of me saying I would veto, here is a copy of that veto!
We rest our case!
Cut and dried!
From Ray Sullivan, a close Perry confidante who served as his chief of staff and as spokesman for his last presidential bid:
Travis County really likes prosecuting Republicans, but it’s unfathomable that a case challenging a governor’s constitutionally granted veto power will ultimately stand up to legal review. Today’s decision will cost Travis County taxpayers a lot more in legal bills and increase legal defense expenses as well. The ruling should have no immediate impact on Governor Perry’s ability to connect with Republican voters and activists in Iowa and other early states.
From Matt Moore, the Republican chairman in South Carolina, where Perry was campaigning Tuesday:
Things had been going well for Perry of late.
Perry gave a real solid performance. The feedback from other RNC members was they were impressed. He was 180-degrees different than what they perceived him to be during the 2012 primary run. There was a good energy. People liked the message. He stayed until everybody had a chance to talk with him. He took pictures with everybody. He really helped himself in terms of image-making at the RNC. He convinced a lot of them to keep an open mind about him, to give him a second look.
Is he running? Very likely.
Who wants him to run? Small-government conservatives; Texans; immigration hardliners; foreign-policy hawks. Noah Rothman makes a case here. (Perry’s top backer four years ago, non-relative Bob Perry, died in 2013.)
Can he win the nomination? Maybe, but who knows? Perry and his backers insist 2016 Perry will be the straight shooter who oversaw the so-called Texas miracle, not the meandering, spacey Perry of 2012. We’ll see.
When will he announce? May or June.
Perry and his people treated his original indictment as a fundraising and team-building opportunity, with a beautiful mug shot and a tweeted trip to Sandy’s for custard. With yesterday’s decision, RickPAC reposted their “Setting the Story Straight” video.
But, even before this latest setback, Perry was up against formidable odds.