Members who have endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry are sticking by their man, saying he can still win the Republican presidential nomination despite a floundering campaign and sluggish debate appearances.
After a strong August entry into the race, Perry was considered a frontrunner, but he has since lost ground, particularly in public opinion polling.
But Rep. Michael McCaul, the first Member to back Perry’s campaign and historically his strongest supporter on Capitol Hill, said his home-state governor can turn it around.
“I’ve known him for a long time — he’s a friend of mine — and I know he’s taking a little bit of a hit in the polls recently, but you know, in politics it’s a long time between now and the election,” the Texas Republican said. “You go through a lot of political lives in elections, and I still think he’s a very strong candidate, and he’s got a very good shot at being the nominee. I think he’s going to have a comeback.”
Perry’s campaign took a blow when he was booed at two separate debates in September for supporting his state’s version of the DREAM Act, which grants in-state tuition to some children of illegal immigrants.
Nevertheless, McCaul, the only member of the Texas delegation to publicly support Perry in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, said Perry should be honest about his record on immigration and play to his strengths.
“It’s a tough one in the Republican primary. The question is, how fatal is that going to be? I think he can recover, but there’s no question that it’s a hit,” McCaul said. “He’s got to get off that topic and move to what he’s done for border security, and he’s done a lot.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said the immigration issue might cost Perry endorsements in Congress.
“I know there were a number of Members who were trying to decide whether to back Perry or [Mitt] Romney or whoever, and after Gov. Perry said, ‘If you don’t support this position, you don’t have a heart,’ I’ve had more than a couple of people say, ‘When I heard that, I can’t support him,’” said Gohmert, who has remained neutral in the race.
Perry has also been criticized for turning in pedestrian performances in the GOP debates, most recently on Tuesday night.
Rep. Steve Scalise, who has endorsed Perry, said he chalks that up to inexperience.
“He’s going to get better. He tried a different approach Tuesday night, and he’s going to continue trying different approaches,” the Louisiana Republican said. “Each time he gets out there, he’s getting more of an opportunity to articulate his record.”
Congressional Democrats have been attempting to stick Perry on race issues, especially after the Washington Post reported Perry used a hunting camp named “Niggerhead.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.