Rick Perry's extreme makeover

“Where I have noticed it profoundly is in the last few weeks, the national TV appearances, whether he’s been on a number of Fox shows or Jimmy Kimmel and some of the others, he just seems like a very confident, upbeat and articulate spokesman for conservative policy and values,” said Ray Sullivan, a former Perry presidential campaign spokesman and chief of staff who joined the governor’s ranks in 1998. He has his own public-affairs firm now but is still close with the office. “He seems to be enjoying himself more today than any time I can remember.”

Smooth TV appearances aside, Perry has a ways to go to demonstrate he’s equipped to be a credible national candidate after his campaign imploded so publicly last time. He continues to be dogged by his infamous “oops” moment, when he forgot on national TV the third federal agency he said he wanted to eliminate. His relatively moderate views on immigration, anathema to many in the GOP base, haven’t changed. And the 2016 GOP primary field is bound to be more formidable than the relatively weak cast of contenders Perry couldn’t overcome two years ago.

“After the 2012 race, the bar’s pretty low,” said Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican consultant. If Perry can exceed expectations, Stutzman continued, “The opportunity is there, but the margin for error is small. He needs to outperform those perceptions immediately and dramatically or he looks like the same guy in ’12 that a lot of people were surprised about.”