Perhaps not surprising, but certainly timely. Rick Perry started off the cycle by trying to atone for his 2012 fumbles, but a ridiculous indictment and a populist uprising never gave the Texas governor a chance. Instead, Perry will hit the campaign trail for Ted Cruz after giving his Lone Star State colleague his endorsement in an interview with Politico:
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is endorsing Ted Cruz in the Republican presidential primary, Perry told POLITICO in an interview Sunday night.
Perry, who also sought the GOP nomination before dropping out in September, said he now sees the race as one that is between Cruz, a fellow Texan, and Donald Trump. Through phone calls and during a December day spent driving around his Round Top, Texas, home in his truck with Cruz, Perry said he found the senator to be a good listener who respects the Tenth Amendment, “knows what he does not know” and is more conservative than Trump.
“Of those individuals who have a chance to win the Republican primary, at this juncture, from my perspective, Ted Cruz is by far the most consistent conservative in that crowd,” Perry said. “And that appears to be down to two people.”
Endorsements mean less than people usually think, and perhaps especially so in this cycle. For Cruz, though, this one might make a difference. Politico’s Katie Gleuck notes that Cruz has been under fire from the Washington establishment, who have made it known that they prefer the other of the “two people” to Cruz. Perry has made a career as governor by taking on Washington DC, so his track record as an anti-establishmentarian — in that sense, anyway — could boost Cruz’ credentials even further in that direction. Plus, the dig about being the “most consistent conservative” in a two-way race with Donald Trump will not go unnoticed.
With this, Cruz picks up a skilled and passionate surrogate for the stretch run in Iowa:
Perry, who is famously skilled at retail politics, will campaign with Cruz Tuesday across Iowa, and will join Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King to stump for Cruz again Wednesday. Perry and King will both join Cruz at a Des Moines rally Wednesday night.
That means more than just the endorsement. Perry’s firebrand conservatism and his passionate defense of the Right on social issues will play well with the Iowa grassroots, and might do more to remind caucus-goers of the differences between Trump and Cruz on issues that hit closest to home of them. That might be somewhat redundant with King already on the stump for Cruz, but Perry is perhaps one of the most skilled in this niche. Cruz comes across at times like a skilled orator in the Harvard tradition, but Perry has the chops of a revival preacher. The combination should work especially well with Iowa voters.
Bear this in mind, too: His value may not be so much in changing minds as it will be to inspiring turnout, while converting crowds to turnout is still an open question with Trump. Firing up the organization will be at least as important at this point.