It will begin a marathon whose finish line follows a lot of unknown peaks and valleys, twists and turns, said Carlos Huerta, a political science professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
“It’s grueling, it takes a lot of stamina,” he said.
Add the specter of ’round-the-clock media coverage, and the edges can fray quicker than ever on even the most well-tailored campaigns.
“A lot of the conversation today is based on the assumption he’s going to get the nomination, and we have no idea,” he said.
During the primary, the attacks will come from the far right on issues such as jobs, immigration and fiscal matters. The general election, if he makes it that far, will see attacks from the far left and middle on the same issues, Huerta said.
“Candidates have to be careful not to make statements during the primary that hurt in the general election,” he said.
The trick, Huerta said, is gaining ground with the conservatives who have a lot of influence with the nomination process without coming off as a right-wing extremist.
“He’s got to distinguish himself as one who has broad appeal and experience,” he said.
Perry may benefit because Texas has a constitutionally weak governor. Because the office is limited in power, Perry cannot take credit — or be blamed — for Texas’ best and worst policies, said Bob Bezdek, a political analyst and faculty member at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
“The governor is articulate and he’s written a book about government regulation, which of course is a theme of many Republicans,” Bezdek said. “And he certainly has been true to the idea of not raising taxes in the face of a $26 billion shortfall.
“However, other factors — like the jobs creation — honestly have little to do with Perry.”
Bezdek said, on the national stage, some polls show Republicans are not yet excited about any one candidate, including Perry.
“He knows how to get things done, regardless of whether one agrees with his position or not,” Huerta said. “He knows how to campaign and win.”
Mark Jones, professor of political science at Rice University, called Perry's speech "a strong general election campaign platform," suggesting that serves a purpose because one hurdle is to show Republican primary voters that "he has a real chance of defeating President Obama."
Perry didn't focus solely on Obama.
He spoke of his father's military service, including 35 bombing missions over Europe, before his dad came home "to work his little corner of land." He said his mother ensured that he and his sisters' needs were met, "including hand-sewing my clothes until I went off to college."
He told of courting his wife, Anita, whom he met at a piano recital when he was 8.
Perry said he learned to appreciate "the blessings of freedom" when he graduated from Texas A&M and joined the Air Force, flying around the world and deciding that the United States is "exceptional."
"As Americans, we're not defined by class, and we will never be told our place," he said. "What makes our nation exceptional is that anyone — from any background — can climb to the highest of heights."