Until last week, Rick Perry had slipped off of the national political radar.  His upcoming decision on whether to seek a historic fourth term in office had barely been noticed, and those who had predicted that Perry would take a pass on another big political fight.  That’s when Wendy Davis shot to notoriety in her filibuster of a popular late-term abortion ban — and put Perry back on the map, according to Sean Sullivan at the Washington Post:

Rick Perry might well owe Wendy Davis a thank you card one day.

The pitched battle over abortion law in Texas has thrust the longtime Republican governor back into the center of the political universe with social conservatives squarely in his corner. All in all, it’s not a bad place for him to be right now. …

Perry hasn’t announced whether he will run for reelection yet. If he decides to pursue a fourth full term, he would do so on the heels of the current abortion fight with renewed credibility among conservative voters who wield major clout in Texas.

Yes, Perry and his Republican colleagues suffered an embarrassing setback last week when Davis, a Democratic state senator, successfully stymied a bill to tighten abortion restrictions. But Perry’s swift call for a new session to reconsider the bill and his provocative rhetoric in recent days has made him the face of the social conservative movement in Texas right now. And the more heat he faces from the left, the better his brand will be on the right. Just ask Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who survived a 2011 recall attempt and vocal protests a year earlier en route to becoming a conservative hero.

If Sullivan’s right, then the man who may have lost the most is Greg Abbott.  Sullivan notes that the Attorney General has started ramping up his own bid for Perry’s job, on the premise that Perry would vacate it soon.  Many of us have been receiving “General Abbott” e-mails asking for donations for his big move.  Perry’s sudden intervention and high-profile rallying call could very well swamp out Abbott’s ambitions for 2014, if for no other reason than Perry sucking up all the oxygen among Texas conservatives — especially, as Sullivan notes, the Left in Texas takes the bait and starts attacking him personally.

Jen Rubin believes Perry is on the right track, even if he stumbled a bit at the start:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) got off on the wrong foot in the Wendy Davis abortion fightby violating the first rule for all male politicians: Never take issue with a woman’s personal life story. There is some irresistible urge that seems to bedevil some sincere pro-life advocates (e.g. Richard Mourdock), causing them to make precisely the wrong argument at the wrong time.

Moreover, for Wendy Davis to accuse Perry of making political hay over the abortion issue is rich. She’s gone from unknown state legislator to feminist icon in a few days. As for her charge of “bullying,” it was actually the pro-choice people in the gallery that tried to disrupt the legislature last week. …

On the substance, Perry is in tune with his voters and the country at large in opposing late-term abortion. That view is a rare point of agreement in the abortion argument. That is why, perhaps, Davis doesn’t use the word “abortion” but instead refers to “women’s choices” or “women’s health” or “women’s rights.” Like many pro-choice advocates, her goal is to make this a unilateral decision by the woman rather than a balance between the rights of the child and the woman. Only then does the “war on women” make sense. (Are pro-abortion forces waging a war on babies?)

As for the specific health regulations (e.g. maintaining surgical center standards) it is hard to argue on one hand that pro-lifers are endangering women’s health while simultaneously objecting to stricter health regulations.

It’s also rather rich when pro-abortion forces argue that men have no say in how government should protect human life. Once human life has begun — which, scientifically speaking, begins with conception and mitosis — then anyone with 23 pairs of chromosomes has a say in how policy should be crafted to deal with it, at least in a representative democratic republic.  It’s best to leave the personal attacks based on gender to the pro-abortion side.

We will know more about Perry’s intentions after this special session, which may last until the end of the month. Assuming that Republicans win this fight and that Perry remains in the lead on it, he’ll be in the best position possible to announce another run for the top job.  If he does and he wins it, Perry may feel inclined to send Davis another pair of pink running shoes in gratitude.