Nate Silver outlines two scenarios to explain Rick Perry’s dithering about whether he wants to remain in the presidential race or not: either Perry wants to vindicate himself in the face of advisers who realistically tell him he can’t win, or else the advisers have a cunning plan they believe really can prevail and Perry had to be talked into it himself. Michael Barone offers a more straightforward, if incomplete, answer: “if you have $3 million sitting there, which you probably don’t have any other possible legal or politically defensible use for, why not use it to stay in?” Recalling Tim Pawlenty’s example, Barone argues that any chance to win to nomination, no matter how small, is better than none at all.
True, but there’s a further reason Perry’s campaign is still going: his campaign strategists still want to draw salaries. If you were making the annualized equivalent of a six-figure income on the Rick Perry gravy train, would you want to call it to a halt while money was in the bank? Let’s just say that isn’t characteristic behavior for political professionals. What’s more, if Perry remains he can only split the anti-Romney vote, which might earn some gratitude from the all-but-inevitable nominee. Good for business. The Perry staff who defected from Gingrich months ago may also want to vindicate themselves professionally as well as personally. Vindication wouldn’t mean winning the nomination, merely outperforming Gingrich and Santorum over the long run. Quite within the realm of possibility. Then, come 2014 or 2016, the pros can say their campaign didn’t flame-out, it did rather well considering the incapacities of the candidate. Why, if they had been working for a good candidate — like you, Mr. Future Contender — they surely would have won.
Does Perry want to keep going so his career doesn’t end with humiliation in the Hawkeye State? That rings true. But it also stands to reason that his strategists are making the most convincing case they can for him to stay in, even though they know he can’t win. Candidates don’t just run campaigns, campaigns also run candidates.