Photo: Gage Skidmore
When Rick Perry announced his campaign for the presidency in mid-August, many pundits dusted their hands and assumed that the race was probably all over. Perry, with his Southern charisma and conservative cred, filled the role of “anyone but Romney” that many on the party’s right wing had desperately hoped for.Since then, Perry’s campaign has floundered. He’s committed numerous unforced errors on the stump and in debates, and he’s been unable to fend off nearly any criticism from rival candidates.
After two months in the spotlight, he’s rapidly receded to the background of the campaign and become just another second-tier candidate.
On August 13, 2011, Perry formally launched his campaign in South Carolina.
Perry announced his candidacy on the same day that Michele Bachmann won the Ames Straw poll. Bachmann's huge win in Iowa should have cemented her status as a frontrunner, but Perry stole the show and siphoned off much of Bachmann's power base.
Two days after entering the race, Perry stumbled into his first gaffe when he said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's actions were potentially 'treasonous,' and that the Fed chair would be treated, 'pretty ugly down in Texas.'
A Gallup poll conducted one week following Perry's entrance into the race showed the Texas governor mopping up the field, leading his closest challenger, Mitt Romney, by a 12-point margin.
In Perry's book, Fed Up!, the Texas governor wrote that Social Security is 'monstrous lie' and a 'Ponzi scheme.' Perry steadfastly stood by that claim early in his campaign, though he later softened his language as his poll numbers sagged.
With Perry out in front of the GOP field, reports started to surface questioning his ties to well-heeled donors and businessmen back in Texas. Many top donors to Perry's past campaigns, it was revealed, had received big benefits in the form of state grants and contracts.
Perry entered his first GOP debate as the clear frontrunner, only to turn in a dud of a performance. Perry's rivals repeatedly hammered him throughout the night, prompting him to joke that he felt like a 'pinata' on stage.
Perry then snoozed through the second half of the debate, offering weak, muddled answers and prompting speculation that he wasn't ready for the spotlight.
Reeling from his lackluster debate debut, Perry again tanked in his second and third GOP debates. Perry's rivals skewered him for ordering a mandatory HPV vaccine in Texas, and for supporting in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants, two positions considered anathema to the party faithful.
As September came to a close, several polls showed Perry's lead dwindling to just a few percentage points.
On September 24, Herman Cain came out of nowhere to score a huge upset victory in the Florida straw poll. Perry's campaign had pushed hard to win that contest, and the stunning loss served as a major embarrassment and a foreboding sign that the campaign was beginning to slide in the wrong direction.
With Perry's campaign already rushing to do damage control, the Washington Post reported that Perry owned a hunting ranch that for years had a rock out front with the site's name, 'Niggerhead,' painted on it. Perry insisted that his family had painted over the racial slur long ago, though others claimed the name remained visible for much longer.
A Gallup poll released Monday showed Perry's support had been cut in half in just one month, plummeting from 31% in September to 15% at the outset of October. That dropped Perry from first place to third, behind both Romney and Cain.
In a debate focused solely on the economy, Rick Perry again failed to turn in a strong performance. He spent much of the debate on the sidelines while Romney and new frontrunner Herman Cain duked it out.
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