The highlight of the last Sunday of 2014 is the one of the great X factors in next year’s primaries: Rick Perry, a guy who could break out by drawing votes from across the GOP spectrum or who could flame out by never finding a niche. On paper, he looks strong — sustained economic growth in Texas during his governorship plus the sort of social-conservative cred that other business-friendly Republicans like Mitt Romney usually lack. But then, he looked strong on paper when he jumped into the 2012 race too and you know how that turned out. (One potentially key difference between now and then is immigration. Perry impressed righties with his leadership on the border crisis this year, which helped atone for the infamous “you don’t have a heart” comment on in-state tuition for illegals in 2011.) He’s spent the past two years inching towards the party’s center by emphasizing his record on jobs while downplaying his position on “values” issues, a smart move that could earn him a second look from some voters who dismissed him last time as a tea-party candidate. The question is, which other candidates’ voters would conceivably defect to him? If you want a pro-business former governor who won’t get sidetracked with social issues, you’ve got the better-funded Jeb Bush. If you want a rock-ribbed conservative who’ll take the fight to the RINOs, you’ve got Ted Cruz. If you want a candidate who can unite both wings of the party, you’ve got two younger men in Scott Walker and Marco Rubio (potentially). Perry’s got the same problem as Bobby Jindal, I think — each of them would make a fine nominee, but each will have trouble drawing voters’ attention away from flashier candidates. And Jindal doesn’t have Perry’s baggage from the 2012 race to worry about. If you’re a Republican voter who’s trying to decide between Perry and a rival candidate, how much will that “oops” moment from two years ago weigh on you? If you nominate him and he has another brain fart at a debate with Hillary, he’ll be a laughingstock.
He’s the lead guest on “State of the Union” this morning. It’s worth watching even if you’re down on him in 2016, partly because this’ll be a retrospective on his 15 years(!) in charge of a major state and partly because the pickings are slim on the other Sunday shows, with most resorting to year-in-review fare. The full line-up is at the AP.