CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—Texas Gov. Rick Perry either should have gotten into the 2012 presidential race much sooner or much later, his top strategist said last week.
"The big tactical or strategic mistakes is … if he was going to do this, we should have started it years ago," David Carney told a forum on the election at the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government last week, pointing out that since Texas's legislature only meets 140 days every two years, "he has a lot of time on his hands, he could have been doing lots of things, going to help lots of people around the country, going to meet people, become very helpful in Ohio and Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina—some of these important states."
Perry had initially planned to skip the race entirely and only got in when he sensed the field lacked a strong conservative voice. Having gotten a late start, he and his staff then scrambled to pull together a campaign. They felt that once he made a decision to run, he had to get in before former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney locked up all the fundraisers and key political operatives.
That was their second mistake, Carney said. "We should have waited actually longer," he said. "We should have waited 'til November maybe … it would have given us more time to be prepared, more time to do some of the groundwork that's necessary."
Carney also confirmed that the back surgery that Perry had in early 2011 "had a big impact" on Perry's debate performances, but not, as some speculated—especially after his "oops" moment—because he was on painkillers. Perry and his doctors had expected a quick recovery from the surgery, but "it was never completely right," Carney said. He added: "It was the standing, it was the ability to get a decent night's sleep, and the travel—it was grueling on his back. It was more difficult to study, more difficult to be comfortable."