After his comical pratfall of a presidential campaign in 2012, many may have forgotten that it wasn't as though Texas governor Rick Perry's performance came as a surprise. Oh, he looked pretty good on paper—never lost a race, fundraising prowess, governor of a big state, truly spectacular hair—but even before he ran, Republicans were expressing unease about Perry's less than razor-sharp intellect and his penchant for doing things like firing guns in the air (or at least pretending to). When he got on the trail, he sure didn't disappoint, from fantasizing about doing violence to Ben Bernanke if the Federal Reserve chair attempted to improve the economy, to airing disturbingly tribalistic television ads, to the famous "Oops" that seemed to sum up his entire campaign.
So naturally, Perry is getting ready to run for president again! Maybe anyway, as Politico reports. "His strategy: Curry favor with influential party stalwarts, demonstrate to voters in key Democratic strongholds that he has the answers for how to jump-start the economy and even show a little political leg with a pit stop in Iowa this November."
The obvious response is, "What is he, nuts?" In the piece, Republican bigwig and notorious Jew-counter Fred Malek, says, "Certainly, he could recover from the debate gaffe as we've seen Bill Clinton recover from the lengthy speech that he gave as a keynoter of the national convention [in 1988] to become the nominee." The trouble is that once giving a long speech that the few people who saw it found boring isn't quite the same as convincing the entire country that you're a blithering idiot through an extended series of blunders.
So how could he possibly think things would turn out differently? Perry has never evinced any lack of confidence in himself, and if you're a powerful politician with a career full of successes whose campaign for president went bad, you're naturally going to say to yourself, "That failure taught me a lot. If I went back for a second shot, I could do it a lot better." What you're not going to say to yourself is, "That's just beyond me. I'm not good enough, and the public isn't going to accept me." There are many reasons why someone would choose not to run a second time, but the belief that they'd fail is seldom going to be one of them. No matter how terrible your first campaign went, the politician's psychology won't permit that idea.
And it's true that lots of people were more successful in their second run than their first. Mitt Romney, John McCain, Al Gore, and Bob Dole all got their party's nomination in their second try. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush all made it to the White House after failing the first time they ran. Is Rick Perry the equal of any of them? I'd say no, but he surely thinks so. Which means we might be able to look forward to a whole new set of hilarious gaffes.
The most prominent potential Democratic candidate, if she runs, would be making her second try, too. Though Hillary Clinton is a lot smarter than Rick Perry,I'm sure that her thinking isn't all that different from his. Even though she came close to winning the nomination, her 2008 campaign was, by all accounts, a chaotic mess behind the scenes. She made some remarkably boneheaded moves, like making Mark Penn her chief strategist. But she'd say the same thing: I learned a lot about how (and how not) to run for president, and if I had a second chance I'd do it much better. Perhaps we'll get the chance to find out.