- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2014

Texas Gov. Rick Perry downplayed the idea Thursday that the window may have closed on his chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination because of the rise of another Lone Star Republican: Sen. Ted Cruz.

Mr. Perry said it is too early to tell what sort of impact Mr. Cruz, serving his second year in the U.S. Senate, will have on the race. Mr. Perry said he believes that after six years of President Obama, the GOP wants to nominate someone in 2016 who is deep on experience.

“Age is substantially less important then ideas and experience,” Mr. Perry said at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

When reminded that he will be 66 by the time the nomination race rolls around, Mr. Perry quipped, “Sixty-six is the new 46.”

The Perry vs. Cruz dynamic is one of the many subplots as potential Republican candidates jockey for position in a wide-open presidential field.

“I think Cruz will cut through Perry’s support like a hot knife through butter,” said Mark McKinnon, who worked as a media adviser to the presidential candidacies of George W. Bush and John McCain. “I think Perry will get squeezed by more establishment candidates on one side and revolutionaries like Cruz on the other.”

Others said Mr. Cruz would not hurt Mr. Perry’s chances.

John Feehery, a GOP strategist, said Mr. Cruz will give Mr. Perry a boost. “Cruz makes Perry look rational and responsible, two qualities that are essential to successfully run for president,” Mr. Feehery said.

Mr. Perry backed Mr. Cruz’s opponent — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — in the 2012 Senate race, which Mr. Cruz won.

Mr. Cruz, though, has said he has no beef with Mr. Perry. Indeed, he praised Mr. Perry at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, telling reporters that he is “a big fan” of the governor.

“He is a friend and a terrific governor,” Mr. Cruz said. “Rick Perry and I agree on a great many things.”

Mr. Cruz has become a darling among tea partyers and grass-roots conservatives, who embrace his confrontational style and the fact that he has been a thorn in the side of both parties since being elected in 2012.

The 43-year-old received a warm reception at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s three-day “Road to Majority” conference here in Washington, where he slammed the Obama administration and called on conservatives to defend religious liberty.

Mr. Perry has been looking to rebuild his image after a 2012 presidential campaign that saw him go from star to laughing stock in a matter of weeks — thanks in large part to his support of in-state tuition rates for some illegal immigrants and his widely panned debate performances.

Still to be seen, though, is whether he can make a political comeback and put himself on solid footing in a presidential race.

“It is difficult, but it is definitely possible,” said Dave Carney, who has previously advised Mr. Perry.

On Thursday, Mr. Perry said that the 2012 experience was “painful” and “humbling” and that he will be better prepared if he decides to take another crack at the Republican presidential nomination.

“Preparation is the single most important lesson that I learned out of that process, and over the last 18 months, I have focused on being substantially better prepared,” Mr. Perry said.

The three-term governor has led a campaign that aims to lure employers to Texas and away from blue states, and he received rave reviews for his speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

He also has started wearing glasses, traded his cowboy boots for shoes and changed his workout routine.

But he also hurt his chances recently when he compared homosexuality to alcoholism.

“I stepped right in it,” Mr. Perry admitted Thursday, saying he strayed from his economic message. “Whether you’re gay or straight, you need to be having a job, and those are the focuses that I want to be involved with.”

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