Texas Gov. Rick Perry is in a very tight spot, but his buddy Sam Brownback, the governor of Kansas, was doing his best Tuesday afternoon to dislodge Perry’s presidential campaign from the rubble of impending defeat.
“A little perspective,” said Brownback, a former presidential candidate himself, after Perry did his final town meeting, at the Nationwide Insurance Co. in Des Moines, before Iowa Republicans voted in their caucuses. “I was with [John] McCain last time around before I was with me—and I didn’t survive the straw poll.”
So far so good.
“McCain comes in fourth in the Iowa caucus—and wins the nomination,” Brownback continued.
So is Perry going to win the New Hampshire primary like McCain did?
“But his race his different! He goes south [to South Carolina],” Brownback replied. “Because McCain can’t pull off Super Tuesday in the South. Perry can. Thing is, each game doesn’t move the same way. Last time, Mike Huckabee won most of the Southern states. McCain got Florida, and that was his big bust-through. So you have to see just how the chess pieces move.”
Having dropped more than $6 million of his contributors’ money on television ads in Iowa, does it now turn out that Perry’s first contest isn’t so important after all?
“No, he needs to be in the top tier,” Brownback said.
What’s the top tier?
“I think you look and you gottta be four or five probably.”
That’s a pretty expansive top tier. There are only six candidates running in Iowa.
“McCain did fourth last time.”
Let’s talk about this time then.
“But that’s my point,” Brownback argued. “You look at that, and I think you gotta have modest expectations for Perry. He’s the newest candidate in the field. He had to get his sea legs under him in the debates. And I think he has. The last ones have been much better. He’s been up against the best in the world—Newt Gingrich. Mitt Romney has had every one of these questions 50 times in the last six years. He’s been able to have batting practice for years! So Perry’s getting his sea legs under him. Things are stabilizing and moving up. The organization is coming in. And he can put together the resources. After you get past the front three states, you have to get resources. You don’t need table stakes to play Iowa.”
Never mind recent reports of backbiting and fingerpointing within the Perry camp. What if his funders decide not to throw good money after bad?
“Well, look at McCain last time. Remember him? He got money at the outset, and then tanks,” Brownback said. "But then you crawl back up, and he ends up being the nominee.”
Brownback really seemed to love this McCain analogy.
“I’m just asking you to look at the track record and try to be objective.”
By which point, the Kansas governor—although he looked perfectly calm and stationary—was spinning dizzily and, as Rick Perry’s pal, with admirable loyalty.