Cashless Rick Perry Hangs Tough, Despite Key Staffer's Defection to Trump

Despite his campaign being so low on cash it's no longer paying staffers, former Texas Governor Rick Perry reiterated Wednesday that he's in the 2016 GOP presidential race for at least the medium-haul. In Austin to watch his successor Greg Abbott posthumously award the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to "American Sniper" Chris Kyle, Perry, as he has since reports of his campaign's being nearly broke surfaced earlier this month, compared his new financial troubles to old ones.

"My whole life I've been short of money, as probably most people in this country have as well," Perry told reporters at the governor's mansion. "In fact, we were short of money here in 2003 when I was the governor, so I know how to deal with shortage of money. You cut spending, and you keep a small footprint. This is just a challenge that happens in a lot of places in time."

Earlier this week, Perry reportedly began a reorganization of his campaign operation in Iowa, the state that will host the GOP's crucial first nominating contest in February. Sam Clovis, Perry's Iowa co-chair and a crucial conservative operator in the Hawkeye State, ditched the campaign Tuesday. Adding insult to injury, Clovis showed up at a Donald Trump event later the same day, taking the lectern from Trump and announcing that he'd decided Trump was the best man for the job and was joining the Republican front-runner's campaign.

One would expect that Clovis' hopping off the sinking ship was galling for Perry, as he's spent the better part of the last two months taking shots at Trump in an unsuccessful attempt to elevate himself above the Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore morass that exists at the bottom of the Republican field. Just Wednesday, he again took a shot at Trump, going after the real estate developer's immigration plan.

“The idea that you’re going to build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso and hang a left and go to Tijuana is just not realistic,” Perry said.

Trump has suggested doing just that and getting Mexico to pay for it, in addition to deporting each undocumented person already in the country. Trump has been joined by other candidates, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, in calling for an end to birthright citizenship for each person born in the United States.

Perry declined to say Wednesday whether he supported getting rid of birthright citizenship, instead repeating, as he so often has, that the real key to fixing the United States' immigration issues is securing the border (although presumably he doesn't want to do it with a wall). When Perry ran for president four years ago, he struggled to win over hard-line, anti-immigration voters, in part because he supported Texas' version of the DREAM Act, which allows undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state tuition at Texas public colleges.

"We are confident that Governor Perry will have a defining breakout moment in this campaign that will change the dynamics of our work in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina," Jamie Johnson, a Perry adviser focused on the early voting states, told the Texas Tribune this week, disputing the idea that the four-term governor was down for the count.

Figuring out where and how that breakout moment might come is difficult. The next Republican debate is set for September 16 in California, and it will feature the same split-field setup that relegated Perry to the kid's table with the likes of Jindal and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum during the last debate. Perry's going to be stuck there again, away from Trump, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, toiling away from prime-time TV eyes, which isn't the best thing when you're hard up for cash.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young