Perry Gets Winnowed

The “winnowing” of the vast GOP presidential field proceeded apace this weekend, with Rick Perry “suspending” his campaign. Officially, that means there are 16 “real” candidates left. Unofficially, CNN excluded Jim Gilmore from even its Kiddie Table debate this week, so there are a mere 15 left.

Perry’s withdrawal has been widely predicted since he stopped paying his campaign staff last month. Even as Team Perry argued that his Super-PAC was flush and the not-paying-campaign- people thing was an accounting problem, he lost his prize Iowa backer Sam Clovis, and in general began to emit the aroma of political death. The rest has been denouement.

The thing is: Perry was running a significantly deeper campaign than he did in 2012, when he alternated between pointing at Texas’ jobs numbers as a self-validating argument for a give-corporations-everything-they-want “economic development strategy,” and raging right-wing gestures aimed at everybody in the GOP who wanted to go medieval on the godless liberals.

This time around Perry impressed even me by making a speech reminding Republicans they were the party of the Fourteenth Amendment. It didn’t catch on. Nor did his regular reminders that he was (along with Lindsey Graham) the rare candidate in a field of war-mongerers who had actually worn a uniform. The CW will suggest that Perry never overcame his 2012 missteps. I’d say he had no distinct identity in a huge field dominated by people who were going medieval just as he was trying to move along to the Renaissance.

His withdrawal rebuts the idea that anybody with a Super-PAC can stay in the race right up until the convention, and will provide an interesting test of what happens to leftover Super-PAC money, as the New York Times‘ Jonathan Martin notes:

The super PACs backing Mr. Perry, collectively known as Freedom and Opportunity, had a raised more than $17 million as of earlier this summer, mostly from a handful of wealthy Texas families, dwarfing the amount raised by his campaign, which was limited by law to raising only $2,700 from each donor. Mr. Perry’s advisers were uncertain what would happen with the super PAC money, but noted that much of it came from a pair of Dallas executives, Kelcy Warren and Darwin Deason, and that they would be consulted.

Presumably, since Super-PACs are supposed to be “independent,” this one can do any damn thing it wants, other than covering the back pay Perry staffers are owed. They, of course, will be scrambling for a new gig, and despite this tiny “winnowing,” it remains a seller’s market for GOP political talent.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.