Rogers: Rick Perry has what it takes

Ed Rogers Special to The Washington Post. Does Texas Gov. Rick Perry deserve another look from Republican know-it-alls? Speaking as something of a know-it-all, I think so. Many people were first exposed to Perry when he assumed the governorship in December 2000, after George W. Bush was elected president. For whatever reason, Bush loyalists in Washington viciously belittled Perry. The antipathy the Bush crowd had for Perry in 2001 cannot be understated. I deferred to my Bush allies and piled on the criticism of Perry whenever I could. I still see the occasional quote or TV clip from him that makes my eyes roll and reinforces my bias.

For many in the GOP, the success of Texas as an economic model for other states has been decoupled from Perry’s stewardship as governor. But 14 years as a governor is a long time. He deserves some credit. His viability as a presidential candidate in 2016 also deserves a fair examination in the months ahead. (Scott Conroy from Real Clear Politics had some interesting things to say about it Friday.)

Recently, Perry has turned heads by beating expectations. He came to the recent Conservative Political Action Conference armed with more than just homilies and clunky cliches. Even if this was the result of good staff work, it means Perry is listening to some good staff.

On Tuesday, he appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” as the show aired from the South by Southwest festival in Austin — and he wasn’t a buffoon! A lot of GOP voters want their nominee to be able to hold his or her own in pop-culture forums. Many Republicans are tired of explaining and apologizing for our leaders being out of the loop. We’re tired of our leaders not being sufficiently confident, nimble or otherwise capable of doing cameos or performing well in other youth-oriented venues. On Tuesday, Perry came onstage to boos but departed to applause. Good for him. That ability should be one of the tests for every GOP candidate in 2016.

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Perry still is vulnerable to being picked off by a geopolitical quiz, a mangled name or some blooper that cements his negative stereotype. But in the pre-pre-pre-pre-game, Perry looks like a serious contender. No less than former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour — my business partner, who knows Perry well — says, “Perry’s record as governor outweighs his performance in the previous presidential campaign. He has to be considered as a serious candidate for president.”

Ed Rogers is a co-host of The Insiders blog, offering commentary from a Republican perspective. He is also chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with Haley Barbour in 1991.