[See update at end of article]

I thought we might be seeing the beginning of the end of Rick Perry’s 2016 campaign two weeks ago when he stopped paying his staffers in South Carolina. While he hasn’t been publicly talking about dropping out, another nail seems to have been driven into the coffin now that his Iowa campaign chairman has decided to move on to greener pastures. (Washington Post)

Rick Perry, whose presidential campaign is struggling to raise money and is no longer paying its staff, lost his Iowa campaign chairman on Monday.

Sam Clovis, one of Iowa’s most prominent conservatives who had been leading Perry’s campaign in the state, confirmed in an interview that he had left the Perry campaign in part because he was no longer being compensated. He said he is in conversations to sign up with another Republican candidate.

“I feel bad for the campaign and I feel bad for Governor Perry because I think he’s a marvelous human being, he’s a great man and it was my honor to be a part of this, but it was just time to move on,” said Clovis, who is a talk radio personality, professor and former U.S. Senate candidate.

For his part, Perry is simply wishing his former chairman the best and maintaining that he’s still “fully committed” to being competitive in all the early states, but how realistic is that at this point? Campaigns run on money with only a couple of exceptions. If you have some staggering level of appeal and national name recognition you can get by on a skeleton crew (for a while) and rely on earned media to keep your name up in the polls. (Think Trump for an example.) Of course if you have those things going for you then you generally have some serious cash of your own. The other strategy is more of the snake in the grass approach, where a candidate basically just hangs on to enough cash to keep their gas tank filled, drives around doing town halls and waits for the rest of the field to drop out. (Think Santorum in 2012.) Rick Perry doesn’t fit into the first mold and his personality doesn’t really strike me as being suited to the second.

The other problem with campaign cash is that it tends to be a herd beast by nature. Money follows money and when a candidate isn’t attracting big donors, other potential big dollar backers are a lot more hesitant to jump into the empty pool. In that regard the fundraising game is something of a self-perpetuating beast. Unfortunately for Governor Perry, by the time he got into the race there were already too many folks who had pinned down the big donors. Of course, as other candidates drop out, their donors will be looking for a new horse to bet on so it’s not a completely lost cause, but this has to be a rather depressing point in his journey.

That’s a shame for all of us, really. While I certainly don’t think that the answer to the GOP’s 2016 puzzle is “Rick Perry or nothing” I’ve really grown to admire him. On paper he’s an ideal candidate, with military and executive experience, as well as having managed one of the larger economies on the planet. He’s also dealt with the immigration question and border security first hand. In terms of personality, he’s one of those larger than life guys with a big, friendly smile and the ability to connect to people on a one to one basis. Aside from that stumble on the 2012 campaign trail, it’s hard to see what’s been holding him down in the polls except for the overall background noise level in this crowded field. The lawsuit nonsense from the Democrats back home doesn’t seem to have gained any traction, and other than that he’s been fairly scandal free.

Maybe Perry will prove me wrong by sticking it out and making a comeback. But that’s pretty hard to envision at the moment.

UPDATE: (Jazz) As a number of readers pointed out, the Perry Campaign reports that they have begun paying some staffers in Iowa and South Carolina again, though the number is not provided.