Perry Building 2016 Momentum in Wake of Indictment

Image: Perry Building 2016 Momentum in Wake of Indictment (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Friday, 22 Aug 2014 03:59 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry is standing up to the criminal charges he faces in his home state head-on, and political experts say that he's already building up a formidable campaign for the presidency in 2016.

"He learned a lot about how to run for president from the 2011-2012 experience," Ray Sullivan, Perry's chief of staff and communications director during the 2012 campaign, told CBS News. "We collectively were not prepared and we did not go into that process as informed and educated as he is today."

On Thursday, Perry, speaking to a gathering at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, said that even Democrats who would normally oppose him do not buy the indictments against him.

"When David Axelrod, Lanny Davis, Alan Dershowitz, Jonathan Chait all say that this is sketchy, outrageous, totalitarian and McCarthyite, I agree with them," he told an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, reports The Hill. "And that's just on the Democrat side of the aisle."

A week ago, the governor, who may be considering another run for the presidency in 2016, was indicted by a Travis County, Texas, grand jury on felony charges after he vetoed state funding for the county's Public Integrity Unit after the agency's leader, county District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was convicted of drunken driving.

When she refused Perry's demand to resign her office, he followed through with a threatened veto of $7.5 million in funding, an action prosecutors called abuse of office and coercion of a public servant.

"I am very confident in my case, and I can assure you that I will fight this attack on our system of government," he said. "With my fellow citizens — both the Republicans and Democrats — I aim to defend our constitution and stand up for the rule of law in the state of Texas."

Constitutional scholar Dershowitz told Newsmax last Saturday that the indictment against Perry is something that "happens in totalitarian societies."

Axelrod, a former campaign strategist for President Barack Obama, former Clinton and Obama administration strategist Jonathan Prince, Vox's Matt Yglesias, and New York Magazine's Chait have all denounced the indictments as well.

Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol and others at the event said Perry is wise to face the criminal problems head-on and that he's sharpened his political skills since 2012, when his campaign for president failed.

Further, Kristol said that Perry could be formidable as a GOP candidate in 2016.

Perry's speech was "a remarkably bold and specific defense of conservative values," said The Washington Post's Right Turn columnist Jennifer Rubin.

Perry is making a "commitment to law and order, to domestic order, and to international strength," said Rubin, at a time when the United States has become "accustomed to an inanimate president" and "silly pontificating from pundits and pols."

Perry is impressive, said Rubin, because he's not only fighting back against "a rogue prosecutor" but because he's rediscovered values that set the conservative movement apart.

"Government is not the cause of riots; it is the bulwark between chaos and ordinary Americans," said Rubin. "The United States is not the cause of the world's ills; it is the only hope for peace, order and human dignity. No wonder Perry is getting such a positive response."

Meanwhile, Perry is far from staying out of the spotlight, reports Politico.

"I am very confident in my case, and I can assure that I will fight this attack on our system of government and with my fellow citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, I will defend our Constitution and stand up for the rule of law," Perry told The Heritage Foundation.

But, sounding more like a presidential candidate than a state governor, Perry also spoke about Middle East policy, making a demand that the United States aggressively pursue Islamic State (ISIS) militants who executed American journalist James Foley, warning that jihadists may be considering crossing the southern border of the United States.

The governor also spoke about the 2014 midterm elections, saying it is "the last chance to pass judgment on the Obama presidency."

Perry is carrying his momentum to New Hampshire this weekend, where he is attending six different events to speak about jobs and to rally Republican voters as the November midterms approach, reports CBS.

And early next week, he'll be in South Carolina, where he'll cheer on Texas A&M in its football game against the University of South Carolina and attend a "victory tailgate" state GOP fundraiser.

"Perry has admitted that running for president is an extremely large challenge and I think voters here are willing to give him a second chance," South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore told CBS.

Mike Dennehy, Perry's New Hampshire adviser, said Perry's indictment has sent the number of people wanting to attend his events this weekend "through the roof."

Perry's foreign policy statements will also be crucial, particularly if Perry faces off against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Vice President Joe Biden, both of whom have long histories of international experience.

"The world is a cauldron of instability and in many cases, violence, and any observer would expect foreign policy to be a much bigger issue in the 2016 race," Sullivan said. "The next president will be left to pick up the pieces and to try to keep the country safe and to make the world safer."

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