Rick Perry is GOP’s first casualty this cycle


Shannon McCarty/Iowa State Daily

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry makes a splash as he walks onto the stage at the Family Leadership Summit in Stephens Auditorium on July 18, 2015.

Thomas Nelson

As Republicans gathered in California on Thursday, CNN’s undercard debate was missing one familiar face scheduled to be on stage with the rest of the lower-tier candidates – Rick Perry.

Perry, the former Texas governor, suspended his presidential campaign last Friday amid disappointing poll numbers and news of his campaign being tight on cash, despite having the backing of a Super PAC with millionaire supporters.

Perry stopped paying his campaign staff in Iowa in July, which led to the decision. Steffen Schmidt, university professor of political science, said the governor’s low poll numbers may be a symptom of something larger, as many people seem to be fed up with politics.

Schmidt said many of the governors running for president have been having difficulties during this election cycle.

“The governors are not doing very well this year, which is really a big surprise. Usually governors do pretty well,” Schmidt said.

Donald Trump appears to have taken a lot of potential supporters away from Perry, along with the long list of other candidates.

“He wasn’t getting any support,” Schmidt said. “He wasn’t moving up in the polls. What was his message? I could never figure out where he fit in.”

Perry had a strong following in his home state and received his start as a successful politician in Texas, serving in the House of Representatives as agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor under then-Gov. George W. Bush and finally as governor from 2000 until January of this year.

“He tried to be someone else; it never works,” Schmidt said in regard to his campaign and attempts to appeal to a larger audience. “The longer you have terrible poll numbers the more the media is going to ignore you.”

Despite disappointing numbers, Perry’s supporters liked the fact that he had experience as governor, served time in the military and grew up from modest means.

“The way he treated his staff was gracious,” said Dane Nealson, an Ames resident who worked for Perry’s campaign. “He was genuinely nice.”

Nealson, who worked for Perry’s campaign four years ago, continued to work for Perry’s campaign this year despite it running out of money.

“After things started really going south, it was amazing how much of his staff stuck around,” Nealson said. “They were true believers, even though they weren’t getting paid.”

Nealson said most of Perry’s staff has moved on to other opportunities since the suspension.

“Almost everybody on our staff made a point to look for jobs that would not be for another candidate that would compete with [Perry],” Nealson said.

Perry’s remaining role in the 2016 campaign, whether it’s staying on the sidelines or endorsing a candidate, is unknown.