Perry says he learned lessons from 2012 Iowa caucus campaign

CEDAR RAPIDS — Gov. Rick Perry didn’t say Wednesday whether he will run for president in 2016, but the Texas Republican apparently has given some thought to another Iowa precinct caucus campaign.

“You can’t parachute in late,” the Texas governor said when asked during a conference call with Iowans what he learned from his fifth-place Iowa finish last year. Perry didn’t campaign in Iowa until the day after the 2011 Iowa GOP Straw Poll — after other candidates had spent months getting to know first-in-the-nation precinct caucus-goers.”

That appeared to be what he was doing on a 50-minute conference call hosted by Americans for Prosperity-Iowa, an advocate for economic freedom and limited government.

Perry, 63, who doesn’t plan to seek re-election in 2014 after 14 years in the governor’s office, talked about his economic development success in Texas and attacked the Obama administration and a Congress — both parties — that “can’t achieve the bare minimum such as keeping the government open.”

Americans, he said, are “amazed at the dysfunction” in Washington that stands in stark contrast to successful policy-making at the state level, especially in states led by Republican governors like himself and Iowa’s Gov. Terry Branstad.

“I’m a big fan of his,” Perry said about Branstad, who is expected to run for re-election in 2014.

The call and an appearance at a Polk County Republican fundraiser Nov. 7  in Des Moines may be Perry’s first attempt to test the waters, speculated University of Northern Iowa political scientist Chris Larimer. It will give Perry a sense of whether voters will be receptive to his message that he didn’t get to deliver in 2012 because of his self-inflicted wounds early in the campaign.

Perry acknowledged his biggest gaffe — a memory loss during a live televised debate when he forgot the name of one of three federal agencies he would eliminate if he became president.

His second lesson learned from 2012 was not to have major back surgery while running a campaign for the presidential nomination, Perry said.

Whether or not his blooper was the result of lingering issues from back surgery, University of Iowa political scientist Tim Hagle said Perry will have to work hard “to get past the competence issue.”

They may be getting ahead of themselves, suggested Bob Haus, who worked on Perry’s 2012 caucus campaign. He thinks Perry’s stopover in Iowa is more likely a goodwill visit than a campaign trip. He doubts Perry has made a decision about running in 2016 or will for at least another year.

“It’s too early” to dust off the campaign buttons, Haus said.

Larimer and Hagle doubt Perry will deliver the same tea party rhetoric Iowa Republicans heard Friday from his fellow Texan, Sen. Ted Cruz. He’s more likely to attack Obamacare and out-of-control federal spending, Larimer said.

“Those may be tea party themes, but I don't think Perry will make that connection explicitly,” he said.

In fact, people on the conference call heard Perry espousing what Hagle called “the essence of the tea party message,” including smaller government, fewer regulations and lower taxes “even if he doesn’t stick a tea party label on it.”

In addition to talking about his success as a governor — lowering taxes, limiting spending, reining in “over-suing” and attracting capital investment and jobs — he distanced himself from the negative public opinions of Congress.

As a governor, “Perry can skip over a lot of that and, again, talk about how well things are working in Texas,” Hagle said.