Former Texas Governor, Rick Perry announced his endorsement of Senator Ted Cruz on Monday. Perry, who dropped out of the 2016 race last September, backed his fellow Texan just one week before the Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest of the presidential campaign and one in which Cruz is locked in a close matchup with real estate mogul Donald Trump. The former Texas governor was popular with evangelicals — a key component of Cruz’s coalition — during both of his White House campaigns. He was an early critic of Trump, calling the GOP frontrunner a “cancer on conservatism” and blasting his plans for border security as unrealistic and superficial.
Through phone calls and during a December day spent driving around his Round Top, Texas, home in his truck with Cruz, Perry said he found the senator to be a good listener who respects the Tenth Amendment, “knows what he does not know” and is more conservative than Trump. Perry, who is famously skilled at retail politics, will campaign with Cruz Tuesday across Iowa, and will join Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King to stump for Cruz again Wednesday. Perry and King will both join Cruz at a Des Moines rally Wednesday night. The endorsement comes from the longest-serving governor in Texas history, just as Cruz faces intensifying heat from other veteran politicians including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and former Senator Bob Dole.
Perry was considered an early frontrunner during the 2012 presidential contest but quickly lost traction after stumbles, particularly regarding immigration policy. He failed to rise above a handful of points in public polling during his 2016 reprise bid. Perry has been dismissive in the past of the experience of first-term senators compared to governors. But he said Sunday that he has come to realize the GOP electorate doesn’t value executive experience this cycle in the same way he does. Perry is confident that Cruz will be prepared from day one.
He knows he’s going to surround himself with people who do have that experience, and I’m very satisfied that on Day 1, he will be ready to be commander-in-chief. Partly because of the time he’s going to spend in learning what he doesn’t know, but he’s also surrounding himself with people who are extraordinarily capable and wise.”
Perry, an Air Force veteran and champion of veterans’ issues, is expected to be particularly helpful in courting veterans, especially in South Carolina, which is home to prominent military bases and an electorate with a strongly pro-military bent — and where Perry had a well-respected team. After Perry dropped out of the primary, Cruz’s campaign immediately began courting his donors and supporters in Texas, while Cruz reached out to the former governor and asked to get together — a gesture Perry says he appreciated given how little down time candidates get off the trail.
And two recent Iowa polls have shown Trump stretching his lead to 11 percentage points in the Hawkeye State, with Cruz’s advantage among evangelicals slipping away. Trump also leads the Republican field by double-digits nationally and in the nation’s second contest in New Hampshire, so his opponents see Iowa as a crucial state in which to stop the real estate mogul from gaining early momentum. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who also ended his 2016 presidential bid, has chosen to support former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Former GOP candidates Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker and George Pataki have yet to endorse.