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The verdict on Rick Perry: He just wasn't ready, analysts say

The excitement about Rick Perry, with his red-state bona fides and potential as a bridge-builder between the tea party and the GOP establishment, faded as his lack of preparation became evident.

By Staff writer / January 19, 2012

Texas Governor Rick Perry stands next to his wife Anita and his son Griffin as he announces he is dropping his run for the Republican presidential nomination during a news conference in Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday.

Eric Thayer/Reuters

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The higher the hopes, the harder the fall.

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Rick Perry’s announcement Aug. 13 that he was seeking the GOP nomination created a rush of excitement among Republicans dissatisfied with the field of candidates. With his folksy charm and red-state credentials as governor of Texas, he quickly surged ahead in the polls and pulled in some fast dollars.

But the starry-eyed expectations that the boy from Paint Creek could be the next Ronald Reagan bumped up against the hard reality that he just wasn’t well enough prepared to run a strong presidential campaign, political experts say.

“Sometimes someone who looks like a superstar in a particular state can just crash and burn once they’re on the national stage – it’s a tough, tough arena,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

Perry at one point represented the tantalizing potential to build coalitions between establishment and tea party Republicans. “When he does this poorly and is forced to drop out before the primary in the most conservative state, it’s a dramatic story, and is going to be disappointing to a lot of Republicans,” Professor Zelizer says.

Governor Perry ended his campaign Thursday morning, throwing his support behind Newt Gingrich just days before the South Carolina primary. “I know when it’s time to make a strategic retreat,” he said in a press conference. “Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”

After peaking in national polls with 38 percent support among likely Republican voters at the end of August, according to the RealClearPolitics tracker, Perry lost steam as he made a series of gaffes in nationally televised debates. Following his disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, his support was down to just 4 percent in the South Carolina polls this week.

The No. 1 lesson is the need for preparation, several experts say.

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