Playbook 2012

Playbook 2012 by Mike Allen Read Free Book Online

Book: Playbook 2012 by Mike Allen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mike Allen
August, Perry immediately shot to the top of the polls, and for a moment at least, it looked as though he might be the man to beat Romney. At the Orlando debate, one of the organizers was startled when Perry appeared at the “mic check,” the ritual pre-debate walk-through for the candidates, looking worn out before the debate had even begun. The Perry camp was complaining that the debate time had been lengthened to two hours to accommodate another candidate, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. Appearing less than excited about the prospect of performing before a live audience of five thousand and a national TV audience of five million, Perry grumbled something to the effect of “It’s 24/7 from now until next November,” the organizer recalled. “He didn’t say, I’m getting tired. It was just sort of, Wow, this takes a lot of energy. It was, I’ve got to be doing this 24/7 for the next fourteen months, geez.” The organizer was surprised that Perry would be so open, griping on a stage surrounded by people he didn’t know (but who knew plenty of reporters).
    The reviews of Perry’s debate performances in the mainstream press and the blogs were devastating. While Romney won A grades, Perry was given Cs and Ds. The Texas governor was soon dropping precipitously in the polls. As the debates followed one after another—the ReaganLibrary on September 7; Tampa, Florida, on September 12; and Orlando on September 22—Perry’s swagger faded into an odd passivity. More ominously, his fundraising began to freeze up.
    David Carney, Perry’s chief strategist, was dismissive of the debates as a noisy sideshow. A former top Perry fundraiser was not so sanguine. “Dave Carney did not think the debates were very important because, in Texas, they’re not. In Texas, it doesn’t affect your major donors. If you have a bad debate, they don’t care,” she said. The Perry operation had raised more than $15 million quickly, about half from Perry’s deep Texas well of supporters. But after the Tampa debate and “definitely” after Orlando, the money was “flatlining,” said the fundraiser. The fundraiser, who left the campaign in early October, was an old pro who had worked on the national level in several elections before joining the Perry team when he announced. She found the Perry operation to be surprisingly provincial. At first, she was working out of the chief finance officer’s private home “with dogs running around,” she recalled. (“We would go out to the pool to take calls to get a little peace and quiet.”) When she offered suggestions, she was told, “That’s not how we do it here.” She would answer, “Well, you’ve never run for president before, but okay.”
    She liked Perry. “He’s the most charming person you ever met. The first time I ever met him, I was really stricken, he has this—just this political gift that I’ve kind of heard about and never really seen up close, that everybody says Bill Clinton had. It’s the ability to connect with people immediately, and he does that very, very well. He’s warm and affectionate and he’ll work the room and hug everybody. He’s very good at finding things to connect with people on, if it’s sports or dogs or hunting.”
    Perry, she said, liked to keep things at the “fluff/friendly level.” But that approach did not go over so well with some big donors, who expected answers on “big questions” and who felt entitled to spend time with the candidate, quizzing him.
    In September, three days before the Orlando debate, the fundraiser took Perry to meet with some big donors in Florida. “They came prepared,” she recalled. “They were savvy, they were smart, and so they would come with lists of questions for him, and that surprised him.” She imitated Perry’s twangy voice asking, with genuine puzzlement, “Why do they need to know my position on global warming? Don’t they just like me?” She added, “Because I think everyone in

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