Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's 2016 Republican presidential campaign is struggling financially. There have been multiple reports that he's no longer able to pay his staff. He has less than $1 million in cash on hand.
The elimination of the Iowa Straw Poll left the unwieldy 17-candidate race with one fewer logical winnowing point. Usually, someone did worse than expected in Ames and dropped out. But presidential politics has a way of thinning the herd regardless.
Perry has run a much better campaign than in 2012, but he hasn't been able shake the impression left by that disastrous outing. Despite Texas' impressive economic performance during his tenure, conservatives with no executive office experience but stronger communication skills have passed him by. Thus the longest-serving governor in Texas history can't raise as much money as Ben Carson, who has never been elected to anything.
It probably hasn't helped that Ted Cruz is one of the newer conservatives on the scene. While there has proved to be room for two Floridians, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, in the 2016 field, at least some of the money Cruz has raised — $1.1 million just since the debate — might have otherwise gone to Perry. Some Texas donors have been able to avoid giving to either candidate by saying they didn't want to choose between their junior senator and ex-governor. And of course Bush has raised a lot of money.
But for Perry, the worst break of this cycle has been missing out on the main presidential debate. In 11th place, he just missed the cut and looked like he was going to be on the stage until a late rally by John Kasich forced him into the "happy hour" debate. That earlier candidates' forum was a lackluster affair, thoroughly dominated by Carly Fiorina, and Perry was denied a potentially huge publicity-generating opportunity to challenge Donald Trump directly.
Perry has two remaining cards to play. First, while he has been among the Republican critics of recent Supreme Court decisions, he should be thankful for their Citizens United decision. His super PACs still have money and aren't handcuffed by the same contribution limits as his campaign. Super PACs kept Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum in the running in 2012 long after they would have normally had to close up shop.
Santorum also provides a precedent for an underfunded, low-polling candidate to keep their presidential aspirations alive by basically living in Iowa. Perry is hoping for a top three finish in the caucuses, which could conceivably give his fundraising a shot in the arm ahead of New Hampshire and South Carolina. This plan involves consuming a lot of fried Oreos.
Perry's travails are another reminder that presidential aspirants must strike while the iron is hot. He was briefly the front-runner in 2011 and had a legitimate shot at capturing the nomination. He may not get a second chance. It's why Cruz, Rubio and Barack Obama all entered the primaries while freshman senators and candidates like Perry and Chris Christie must wonder if their best opportunity has already passed them by.