Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rick Perry Drops Out Of 2012 Race; Endorses Newt Gingrich

It shouldn't be all that surprising that Rick Perry is dropping out of the race for President.
The announcement from Mr. Perry was expected to inject fresh momentum into Mr. Gingrich’s efforts to emerge as the leading alternative to Mitt Romney. It was unclear whether Mr. Perry would campaign with Mr. Gingrich in the final two days of the primary campaign here.

Mr. Perry will not participate in the debate here on Thursday evening, an aide said, and will make the announcement to supporters and contributors in South Carolina at an 11 a.m. news conference. He had been aggressively campaigning across the state, hoping that the first Southern primary would revive his candidacy.

It was the second time that Mr. Perry had signaled that he would leave the race. After a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses two weeks ago, Mr. Perry said that he was returning to Texas to reassess his campaign, but he decided to press ahead in South Carolina.

Mr. Perry was in the single digits in recent polls here, but his withdrawal from the race could affect the outcome of the primary by giving conservative voters one fewer alternative. He had been appealing heavily to South Carolina’s evangelical voters.

The decision by Mr. Perry, which was first reported by CNN, narrows the Republican field to four candidates.

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who is competing with Rick Santorum to emerge as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, has urged Mr. Perry and Mr. Santorum to drop out of the race to coalesce support among conservatives.
He repeatedly failed to make a positive impact on voters despite having a major warchest. Perry's campaign never could figure out a ground game and Perry's repeated gaffes, most notably failing in a debate to remember the three cabinet departments that he would eliminate as President showed that he wasn't ready for prime time.

Perry says that he'll endorse Newt Gingrich for president, which will not come as much of a surprise since the social conservatives are all scrambling to find which candidate remaining can challenge Mitt Romney for the nomination. I don't think that Perry's endorsement will count for much, as Gingrich is still lagging behind Romney significantly in polls in the next round of states.

The candidates remaining in the campaign trying to topple Mitt Romney besides Gingrich are Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Paul's support tops out at no more than 20% in any of the states where he's competitive, and Gingrich has pretty much signaled that he will stay in the race if only to smear Romney at every opportunity. Like Paul, Santorum's best showing was in Iowa and is expected to be nothing more than a footnote in upcoming primaries.

Thus, at this point, the idea of endorsements and shifting support among conservatives is all about jostling for the scraps and trying to force Romney to move even further to the right. That is a political maneuver that is fraught with danger particularly since candidates need to be able to tack to the center during the general election in the attempt to gain independents and moderates. If the GOP nominates a more conservative candidate (say Santorum or Gingrich), it would most assuredly result in an Obama landslide, precisely because the GOP extremist positions, on everything from global warming to creationism and religion in the classroom, is antithetical to what moderates and independents want in their candidates. It would marginalize the GOP in a way that hasn't been seen in generations. Paul's chances for a nomination are even lower, because his libertarian positions don't jibe with the GOP positions and appeal to an even smaller percentage of people - to say nothing of Paul's racist and anti Semitic past (those newsletters simply cannot be ignored).

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