Perry: Yeah, my back has been a big problem on the campaign trail

posted at 11:10 am on December 12, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

When Rick Perry jumped into the race, many of us expected his skill at retail politicking to swamp the field in Iowa and perhaps run away with the nomination.  Instead, a series of debate blunders and a lack of engagement in Iowa produced a stalled campaign struggling in the second tier.  Perry admits that a back surgery in July took a bigger toll on his campaign than previously acknowledged, but that’s no excuse for the errors:

Q: How is your back?

A: My back is great. I’m back running again for the last six weeks. I think part of the reason you have seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is my health, and (I’m) both physically and mentally just back in the game. You have fusion on your back, and it takes you a while to get back on your game.

Q: So were you not feeling good in those early debates?

A: I would suggest to you that I was pretty fatigued. No excuses. It was error. It’s what it is. Look, if anybody is looking for the perfect candidate, I’m not it.

I had a conversation about this over the weekend in Des Moines with a couple of friends before the debate.  I’ve had back surgery — a laminectomy/disc evacuation, not a fusion, which is more serious — and five years later, I still have problems standing in one spot for a lengthy period of time.  (Disneyland can be a bummer in that regard.)  I couldn’t imagine having to go on the campaign trail a few weeks after surgery; in my case, I could barely walk without a cane by that time, and when I’m very fatigued, I still have issues with my right leg that can cause me to limp a bit.

That’s why I suspected that his performance issues were related to this surgery, and I’m not sure he’s entirely past them.  I’ve seen Perry in person a few times before this summer, and he has always been dynamic and charismatic.  In his campaign appearances this year, he has seemed more tentative, less energetic, and as a result less effective.  In Des Moines on Saturday, Perry’s appearance at a veterans forum a few hours before the debate still seemed tentative and reserved, although Perry ended up making a pretty good impression on the attendees.

Still, Perry is right that “it’s what it is” by this time.  If he was not prepared for the campaign trail, he may have been better advised to remain on the sidelines.  Over the last few weeks, though, Perry has managed to right the ship and perform better in the debates.  He’s also going on the campaign trail in Iowa, getting back to the retail politicking at which he normally excels.  Can he convince Iowa voters to give him a second chance?  Perry’s performance in the debate at least left him that opening, and we’ll see if he’s feeling physically fit enough to produce enough charisma to woo caucus-goers back to his banner.


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Schadenfreude on December 12, 2011 at 1:53 PM

Sorry for the slow reply, had to take a conference call. Good point, plus they do enjoy so. I’ll stand down and get some more popcorn.

Bmore on December 12, 2011 at 2:50 PM

On the other hand, I found much of law school to be a waste of time.

novaculus on December 12, 2011 at 2:29 PM

Yeah sure, but don’t y’all have to learn Paris talk? So right there you would be able to communicate with both Mitt Romney and John F Kerry…….

Dr Evil on December 12, 2011 at 2:59 PM

If he’s not fit to run, he’s not fit to serve. Perry deserves no kudos for this.

Random on December 12, 2011 at 12:05 PM

Yeah, that’s how we got FDR and JFK, neither fit to serve.

cartooner on December 12, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Yup. I was just thinking of JFK the other day in relation to Perry’s back pain (and possible pain medication.) You and I and others have been mentioning his back for a couple months now as part of his problems early on.

This just confirms it. Glad Perry is doing better. We need him.

Elisa on December 12, 2011 at 3:00 PM

It disturbs me greatly that so many Republicans hinge their choice of candidate on American Idol-like debates with 30-second soundbites instead of actual records of governance and leadership. The fact that so many have flocked to a failed politician from the past like Gingrich is representative of that.

Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, and Gary Johnson are all successful governors with a record of conservative leadership. Mitt Romney has one term as governor and couldn’t get re-elected. Bachmann and Gingrich only have House experience and no executive experience of any kind. Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson, and Ron Paul have extensive business executive experience. Ron Paul and Rick Perry have military experience.

Those are the records we should be discussing, not flubs and tongue-twists fielding questions from mostly hostile moderators.

As for Rick Perry’s back surgery, I’m amazed at his endurance after so short a recover period. My mother had 2 back surgeries a number of years ago and it took her at least a year to be back to normal, and she still has issues today. She finds it extremely painful to sit or stand for long periods. Although she walks every day, I can’t imagine her jogging after just a few months.

Another observation… I get Town & Country as an almost free subscription from Amazon. It’s the magazine for rich people. One of their little articles this month shows how they portrayed Mitt Romney as one of the very eligible, up and coming, potentially future POTUS, back when he was a college student of 20.

I prefer a real man with real life experiences in the military, working a cotton farm, and running a state as large as many countries for more than a decade to a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth for whom a $10,000 bet is pocket change.

Common Sense on December 12, 2011 at 1:48 PM

I agree with you and you show alot of “common sense.” lol

Elisa on December 12, 2011 at 3:01 PM

politicoexpress on December 12, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Don’t be offended, before you know it instead of being young and knowing everything, you will be old and know everything. And all people change their minds, it’s human nature and valuable experience. We are all, sometimes, just wrong.

Cindy Munford on December 12, 2011 at 3:05 PM

I also feel sympathy for Rick Perry knowing he had a fusion back in July. In fact I’m surprised he’s doing as well as he is. I had a fusion about 15 years ago and it took several years just for the surgical pain to resolve.

I was in grad school and although I finished my degree, those first 6 months postsurgery were rough. The painkillers I was prescribed really don’t do much for the pain, but they sure make you feel slow and stupid. I stopped taking them after a few weeks since I got tired of dropping glassware and staring at my computer screen while forgetting what I was working on.

Perry’s slowness in the debates can be explained if he was on pain meds. There’s really nothing he can do except stop taking them to keep his mind clear and lie down with an ice pack whenever he can. Aleve or ibuprofen really don’t help much, but they’re better than nothing.

It’s great that Perry’s back exercising and I hope he continues to improve. He and Bush were my governors for the 11 years I lived in Texas, and I thought they both did well. Perry’s not my top choice partly because of the Guardisil issue and for other reasons I won’t go into now. But I would definitely support him in the general election. He’s a much better candidate than John McCain (not a high bar, I know).

drflykilla on December 12, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Man I hope he makes a comeback. He’s the only one that I can truly be proud to go to the booth for.

NWA Conservative on December 12, 2011 at 3:16 PM

cozmo on December 12, 2011 at 2:41 PM

Frankly, I didn’t bother to read beyond “relentlessly idiotic”. Life is too short.

Yeah sure, but don’t y’all have to learn Paris talk? So right there you would be able to communicate with both Mitt Romney and John F Kerry…….

Dr Evil on December 12, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Well, you don’t need French or even Latin for law school. I did study la langue Francaise because many of the works I studied were originally written in that language, and you had to at least test out of a second language for a grad degree. Then I discovered that upper level French classes were almost entirely populated by women and gay guys, so I was often the only guy or the only straight guy in the class. Got a lot of dates that way. Then I went to law school instead of continuing in Poli Sci and Psychology. Haven’t used it since.

Cindy Munford on December 12, 2011 at 3:05 PM

I used to know everything too. Somewhere along the line I figured out that the more I learned the less I knew.

novaculus on December 12, 2011 at 3:29 PM

He should say this occasionally. It’s his only viable excuse for his performances out there.

The Nerve on December 12, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Dear Ed,
I had the same symptoms as you (excruciating pain standing in one spot) and was crippled for ten years, with spinal fusion surgery as an option. It was daunting and everyone told me NOT to get it. Well, I got it and have 99% pain reduction. It’s the best decision I ever made in my life. I wish you well.

factsonlypls on December 12, 2011 at 4:29 PM

factsonlypls on December 12, 2011 at 4:29 PM

I know someone who didn’t benefit from it, but I don’t know anything about the doctor who did it. Have you had any other effects of the surgery? I’ll grant you that pain reduction would be worth inconvenient side effects.

Eren on December 12, 2011 at 4:38 PM

I know how painful it must be for Perry as well. I have a disc out of place from a football injury when I was younger. My back gets to be in real pain if I’m having to stand for more than an hour, which causes me to lose some concentration.

I do hope his surgery went well and can be in better shape by the time the primaries are over. He’ll need to be in going up against Obama campaigning in the general.

Ronaldusmax on December 12, 2011 at 5:02 PM

Have you had any other effects of the surgery? I’ll grant you that pain reduction would be worth inconvenient side effects.

Eren on December 12, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Well, my back isn’t as flexible as it was before, but really I have no other side effects. I have to take it easy with lifting and sports etc. but I’m still just 10 months out of surgery. It’s really amazing the relief I got and I’m thankful everyday.

factsonlypls on December 12, 2011 at 5:11 PM

He’s really downplayed the back surgery and his recovery. Maybe he should have consulted with the doc before embarking on a presidential run. His getting in and resulting media hype is probably what kept SP from running in this cycle. Now we’re left with Mittens and Newtie.

Kissmygrits on December 12, 2011 at 6:01 PM

factsonlypls on December 12, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Thanks. I injured mine 20 years ago and it’s steadily gotten worse, to the point where I can’t stand in a line more than a few minutes and can barely lift 10 lbs. Thank God for shopping carts, there is no way I’d last in a store 5 minutes without one. I used to be unable to move without a cane but found that a combination of light water aerobics and bike exercise 3-4 times a week has enabled me to get around without it for short distances. Still, the pain keeps me from sleeping like I should and I wake up hurting. Sorry, I’m sure that’s more than anyone wanted to know but I’ve always wondered about surgery; I didn’t want to make it even worse.

Eren on December 12, 2011 at 6:04 PM

I have also had a laminectomy to fix a pinched nerve which was hurting my back and my legs. And, yes, its not as bad as disc fusion surgery but it is still a bummer and I also still have a hard time standing for a long time without feeling pain.

But, it didnt affect my ability to remember three whole things at the same time. I was negotiating corporate finance deals within 3 days of my surgery, so…nice try Rick. But yer kinda dumb.

Jailbreak on December 12, 2011 at 11:18 AM

Wow. What can’t you do? My highly educated, highly intelligent marathon running husband had back surgery, and it took him months to get back to normal. But you only took 3 days!

Would…you… run for president? Please? You’re so totally awesome I’m sure you’d soar to the top immediately!

NbyNW on December 12, 2011 at 6:53 PM

I’m actually hoping Oboobi refuses, just so we can break another silly precedent that rival candidates must debate in search of that magic zinger that will bring them to victory.

AH_C on December 12, 2011 at 1:21 PM

Wouldn’t it be funny if that happened, after all the Gingrich debate groupies got him nominated?

NbyNW on December 12, 2011 at 7:09 PM

Perry also had to wait until the state legislative session was over.

workingclass artist on December 12, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Good point. Not all the candidates have a real job right now. Are Mitt, Newt and Santorum doing anything other than campaigning?

NbyNW on December 12, 2011 at 7:13 PM

I feel bad for him, but he wasn’t physically ready to run for 2012 and it’s too late for him now. He had everything going for him as of August. He’s not going to get those months back.

alwaysfiredup on December 12, 2011 at 7:19 PM

If he can’t do that jaunty skip ‘a la Bama’ down the steps of Air Farce One, then he’s clearly unfit for office.

He’s also frighteningly stupid, and by extension so are all Texans because they voted for him 3 times in a row as governor. Transplants are Texas’s only hope.

CorporatePiggy on December 12, 2011 at 8:36 PM

Say what you will about Perry but I think he just claimed a scalp on Saturday.

A scalp laden with black hair dye and gel.

Omega_Rage on December 12, 2011 at 9:30 PM

Having been there meself re: back surgery more than once, I can appreciate the Governor’s pain: every move you make wants to elicit a moan, groan, or “unnnnnh”. Your mind is momentarily taken off of any other thoughts. It’s what happens. It takes time to recover. Sometimes more than others.
That Said: I am a Rick Perry fan big time, and I hope he continues his slow comeback. The alternatives are not special.
One Alpha Male v. two Betas and a fading female …
I’ll go with the Alpha Male who carries a handgun while jogging.

BTW … Do both people who subscribe to LGBTV really care what Glenn Beck, Inc. thinks about anything? Or is it just a job being paid to watch the Modern-Day Elmer Gantry?
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on December 13, 2011 at 11:18 AM

If he can’t do that jaunty skip ‘a la Bama’ down the steps of Air Farce One, then he’s clearly unfit for office.

He’s also frighteningly stupid, and by extension so are all Texans because they voted for him 3 times in a row as governor. Transplants are Texas’s only hope.

CorporatePiggy on December 12, 2011

Ya, that worked REAL well for Arizona and carpet .. er, bagger Janet Napolitano, eh? I left Arizona, my home, because of all the leftist “transplants” (and illegal aliens).
Be careful what you wish for.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on December 13, 2011 at 11:24 AM

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