Rick Perry Should Not Drop Out (Updated)

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After finishing in fifth place in the Iowa caucus, Rick Perry delivered perhaps the finest speech of the night.  At the end, he said that he was going home to Texas to “reassess” his campaign and try to find a way forward.  That is not quite as dire as “suspending” one’s campaign, but that is not a good sign for those of us who support his candidacy.

I hope that Perry decides to continue, and not just because he’s my favorite candidate.  I also don’t think that Michelle Bachmann should drop out.  No candidate should drop out after last night, and for one simple reason: it is simply time to stop making one small caucus and one small state so important in the grand scheme of a campaign.

Tim Pawlenty dropped out after merely losing a non-binding straw poll in Ames.  Pawlenty’s premature exit from the campaign is a decision that he must be ruing considering all that has transpired over the past five months.  Perhaps Pawlenty would have dropped back into Jon Hunstman territory, or perhaps Pawlenty would have become the candidate that conservatives rallied around in order to defeat Mitt Romney.  We simply don’t know because Pawlenty let the decision of a handful of voters in what is basically a glorified clambake take him out of the race.

You know how many delegates Santorum and Romney, the winners of the Iowa caucus, each won?  Six.  Six delegates out of 1,144 needed to win the nomination.  Iowa’s population is roughly one percent of the total US population.  It is a state that is over 90% white, and has an unemployment rate that is 5.7 percent, almost three full points below the national average.  In other words, it is not a state that is exactly representative of the nation as a whole.

The first four state in the presidential primary season represent a decent cross-section of the population, or at least of the Republican electorate.  Iowa is a populist, midwest, rural white state.  New Hampshire is a small New England state that is typically more libertarian.  South Carolina is a growing, southern state that has typically been more predictive of the eventual nominee than the first two states.  Finally there is the populous swing state of Florida.  We will have a much better idea of the state of the race after the Florida primary has been completed, and all the candidates owe it to the electorate to at least tough it out until that point or else we will continue to allow Iowa to have a ridiculously over-sized influence on the nomination process.

Now there are legitimate reasons for Perry (and for Bachmann) to see the writing on the wall and drop out.  Perry concentrated his efforts on Iowa and spent north of $5 million there.  After all that he only received 11 percent of the vote.  Perry had already written off New Hampshire, and he is struggling to get even in the top three in South Carolina.  He may see the rise of another respectable conservative in Santorum as a sign that he has no path to victory, and his continued presence in the race is only muddying the field.  That’s an understandable strategic decision, and I respect that.  But I hate to see Iowa continuing to play a more glorified role in the selection process than is merited.

Update:  Evidently Rick Perry has listened to me.  Who says I don’t have influence?

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  1. May we see a fresh, citizen-demanded move to reform the financing of campaigns and the selection of delegates. The exaggeration of Iowa’s importance – and one candidate spending $5+ million there to gain so little makes it more questionable. Not to mention the 50 states and the one billion expected for 44’s bid that is un-challenged inside his own party.

  2. I didn’t know you wanted to divide the not-Romney vote to help Romney.

    Every eventual nominee has finished within the top 4 in Iowa and the top 2 in New Hampshire. Sure, Iowa shouldn’t be this important but Perry and Bachmann aren’t doing well in any state or nationally. Iowa is merely reflecting the fact that they aren’t popular anywhere. Staying in isn’t going to diminish Iowa’s role.

    I’m glad to see Perry go. Bachmann is expected to drop out later today. It’ll dramatically improve the quality of the debates. I expect Huntsman to drop out after NH and Newt after South Carolina which will improve the debates even more.

    I’ve heard that Pawlenty was glad to drop out. He didn’t enjoy campaigning.

  3. I didn’t know you wanted to divide the not-Romney vote to help Romney

    Admittedly I wouldn’t mind seeing the field winnowed, but I still think candidates should let a wider range of voters make the call.

  4. You know what would be a good first in the nation primary? North Carolina. A good-sized population, southern but with an influx of out-of-staters, relatively diverse, and Republican-leaning but not decidedly so. I think that would be a much better test for the candidates than Iowa. I’d also suggest Virginia but they’d only let a couple of guys on the ballot, so they don’t get it.

  5. The Economist lose the primary system. They argue that the early states should be small. It allows people like Santorum with few resources to compete with people like Romney. It also allows voters to personally get to know the candidates.

  6. A little off topic here, but there’s a natural process that the more you win, the more you look like a winner. Over the next few weeks you’re going to see a change in the political reporting. The whole “weak field” story line is going to disappear, and it’ll be replaced by a “Thrilla in Manila” battle of the giants. Is X undefeatable? Y has emerged as a leader. Z is drawing record crowds. Then there’ll be a “fight to the finish” story line, and “will there be a brokered convention?”, which there won’t be, because there never is. By the end of it all, after week after week of one candidate and the word “WINS” appearing in the headlines, even the most ideological member of the press will get caught up in the excitement of a potential horse race in the general election.

  7. As an early supporter of Gov. Perry, and as someone who is decidedly NOT Santorum’s biggest fan, it pains me to say that Perry needs to read the writing on the wall and understand that he has been tried and found wanting. He blew his chance, and I truly believe there is no recapturing the momentum. I mean, he ought to be cleaning up in a state like South Carolina, but instead he’s pulling 6-7 % of the vote. What a joke. He’s done for, and needs to get out so that the conservative vote can coalesce around someone who still has a chance to stop Romney.

  8. Perry is obviously a skilled politician as his record in Texas indicates. The fact that he was unable to perform adequately in the debates flabbergasted me and his ground game in Iowa was very weak for all the money he spent. Throughout this I have had the feeling that his heart simply wasn’t in making this run.

  9. I always had my eye on Santorum for the primary (I’m in SC), but I figured I’d be one of the 4% vying for him. I didn’t think Perry was going to last as long as he has, given how terrible he is at debating. Perry has little chance of getting Top 4 in NH, even less chance in SC where he should be doing well. He should absolutely follow Bachmann’s lead and drop out so that someone (Romney) doesn’t get nominated.

  10. I know that the 2012 schedule is different than that of 2008, but Giuliani tried to wait until Florida until he made his move. It looks good on paper, but I think again that the drumbeat of victories and defeats makes a late surge very difficult. And I know, Florida isn’t late, but it’s late-R, and everyone wants to whittle it down to a two-or-three-man race right away.

  11. You know what would be a good first in the nation primary?

    None of them. Have the bloody primaries and the 1st round of caucuses the 2d week of June and the 2d round of caucuses the 3d week of June and the conventions in August. If we are fortunate, our politicians can slice five months off the budget of time spent in madcap electioneering.

  12. I wonder what the good to bad debate ratio is before opinions level out. Perry’s last few debates were pretty good. Does he need 1.5 good debates to makeup for every bad? 2:1?

    I know it’s not a gaffe, but I found Santorum’s whining and petulance in the early debates equally annoying. He’s better now because he’s more comfortable. He’s more comfortable now because he’s not a single digit guy.

    The upcoming debates should be interesting.

  13. I know you’re kind of kidding, but there’s actually something to that, Kyle. Perry’s poor debate performances came early on in the process when he was making a first impression. Once opinions are formed about someone, they are difficult to change.

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