Rice U. PolySci Chair: South Carolina Will Be Make-Or-Break For Governor Perry

We could know in about six weeks whether Governor Rick Perry will continue his campaign for the GOP Presidential Nomination.  One local political expert says if the Governor doesn't finish strong in South Carolina late next month, he'll likely pack it in.  Before that, Governor Perry has to make it through the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary.

Recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show Governor Perry in fifth place among likely Republican voters.  Rice University Political Science department chair Mark Jones says the governor has essentially written off New Hampshire.  Jones says Perry is focusing on evangelical voters in Iowa and South Carolina instead.

"He's much better off dividing his efforts between Iowa and South Carolina, with the goal of being respectable in Iowa and then doing something surprising in South Carolina, perhaps finishing second or, ideally, winning, but at least being respectable."

Jones says a 'respectable' finish for Perry in Iowa would be third or fourth place, whatever it takes to beat Michelle Bachman and challenge Ron Paul.  Jones predicts if the governor doesn't finish in first or second place in South Carolina on January 21st, he could terminate his campaign that night.

"Every day that he spends in the race in this third-tier only diminishes his standing as a political leader.  So, at a certain point, Perry has to realize 'okay, this is damaging my ability to govern in Texas and my political future, I need to pull out.'" 

Jones says even though Governor Perry has damaged his reputation with poor debate performances and policy flubs, he would still be a credible candidate to run for a fifth term as governor in 2014.

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David Pitman

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