Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour seems to think so:
Q: Is it becoming clear that Mitt Romney will emerge as the Republican nominee?
A: I don’t think it’s clear. I think people make the mistake of writing off Rick Perry and believe he can’t come back. He’s got a mountain to get over, but I don’t think it’s impossible. Both Newt and Romney have a lot of support, but I don’t think it’s a two-man race. I think Perry could get back in it with Gingrich and Romney. I can’t look you in the eye and say nobody else can come up. You’ve got to learn your lesson this year not to say that about anybody.
Coincidentally, this subject came up a day or so earlier on Twitter, in a conversation involving Allahpundit, blogger Karol Markowicz, fundraiser/adviser Nathan Wurtzel and me. AP, skeptical of a possible comeback, asked me what I thought Perry would have to do to get back into contention.
I think the first and most difficult step is for Perry to stop being a bad candidate. He has gotten a bit better under the radar, but needs to continue to improve.
If Perry does improve, he may stand a shot at placing third in the Iowa caucuses. The new Des Moines Register poll has Perry near the bottom at six percent, but the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. PPP has a poll in the field in Iowa and teases that Perry appears to be in double digits.
The Register poll shows more respondents choose Gingrich as their second choice than any other candidate. However, Perry could benefit not only from Herman Cain’s collapse, but also from lingering doubts about Gingrich.
In Iowa, the doubts will primarily come from the religious right. In past cycles, social conservatives ensured victories for candidates like Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee. This year, there is no consensus candidate.
Newt — he of the serial infidelities and divorces — bought himself some goodwill with some religious conservatives by pouring $150,000 into the successful 2010 campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court judges after the state’s high court struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage. But even that support has proved controversial among social cons in Iowa. And Newt probably did not help himself with them by telling Jake Tapper human life begins at implantation rather than conception.
Michelle Bachmann also hurt herself recently with this demographic by gaining access to the email database of a group of parents who homeschool their children in Iowa and sending them two unsolicited email blasts. Nor does there appear to be any groundswell in Iowa for Rick Santorum.
Perry seems to have figured all of this out; his latest ad is aimed squarely at religious conservatives. If Perry climbs back into third place (or at least ties it with Ron Paul) in Iowa, he has a shot at maintaining a viable campaign. There is the traditional spin about there being three tickets out of Iowa and Perry — like Romney and Gingrich — is blessed by his rivals. Conservative voters are looking for a viable NotRomney, and while they are currently flocking to Gingrich, all the polling suggests his support (like those for his rivals) remains soft.
NotRomney voters may also be looking for an insurance policy, given Gingrich’s demonstrated propensity to implode. Indeed, Gingrich looked as though he had his final implosion just a few months ago. And if Newt can make a comeback, it is possible that Perry could do the same. But it’s not likely unless Perry continues to improve his campaign over the next month.