Perry Very Likely to Run; Gingrich Took a Not-Listening Tour; Weiner Unbowed; Obama Ready to Yield on Debt Deal; Gates Channels Rummy, Bashes NATO

Texas Governor Set to Upend GOP Race

“Ready for launch.”

-- Adviser to Texas Gov. Rick Perry when asked by Power Play about the condition of a possible presidential run.

Sources close to Texas Gov. Rick Perry say that the events of the last week have brought America’s longest-serving governor to the cusp of an announcement.

The implosion of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign frees up Perry’s political wingmen, Dave Carney and Rob Johnson, now said to be headed to Austin to prepare a Perry run. Also this week, sources say Perry got the thumbs up from the Texas moneymen whose support he sought before launching a campaign. A big piece in the Wall Street Journal also helped convince the team that there was East Coast interest in the Texan’s candidacy.

Gingrich’s collapse also leaves a major hole in the field: There is no viable Southerner seeking the nomination of the party of the South.

But Perry is getting ready to launch a campaign that will fill that gap and draw the sharpest contrast with Massachusetts’ Mitt Romney. The Romney campaign served chicken and white bean chili at the candidate’s announcement speech. Perry will be all spicy Texas red.

While establishment Republicans have been pining for a candidate who is ready to have a detailed policy debate about entitlement reform and regulatory uncertainty (a la Mitch Daniels) the rank and file wants someone who is ready for a throwdown. Perry has a reputation as a policy lightweight, but he knows how to fire up a crowd and give the kind of straight talk Republicans are itching for.

Those who doubt the condition of the electorate should examine the rise of Herman Cain. He’s in for some rough weather after veering into social issues -- defending his assertion that he would not include Muslims in his administration and declaring homosexuality to be a “sin” and “a choice” – but Cain’s appeal is as a straight-talking Southerner with a libertarian flair.

Perry’s rise may push some uncommitted easterners into the arms of Romney as the election becomes more geographical and more of a clear Tea Party-versus-establishment contest. But it will also tend to galvanize the 20 percent of undecided voters and rob support from Cain and other second-tier candidates.

Another challenge for Perry will be overcoming his previously prickly relationship with the political veterans who populated the Bush political organization. Perry and George W. Bush have an old rivalry, but the Bush presidency left an indelible mark on the world of political professionals, many of who have embraced former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and, to a lesser degree, Romney.

Some in the establishment, though, may decide that Perry’s potential with Hispanic voters and his stark juxtaposition with Obama – plain English versus foggy phrasing – may be the best way to win over independents fed up with Washington blather.


Professor Gingrich Gets a Lesson

“I think this is the happiest, most positive, and most fun campaign in my lifetime. We will have so many ideas, so many interesting people, so much fun doing things.”

-- Newt Gingrich on May 13 unveiling his economic plan in Washington D.C.

In what appears to have been a failed intervention aimed at getting Newt Gingrich to run a more disciplined campaign, the top aides, headline endorsers and key primary state operatives of the former House speaker’s presidential campaign walked out on Thursday.

Despite all that, Gingrich is promising to re-launch his campaign in Los Angeles (of all places) on Sunday (of all times). Erstwhile staffers say they begged Gingrich not to take his wife on a weeklong cruise of the Greek Isles at a time when the campaign was hemorrhaging support following Gingrich’s attacks on the House Republican budget plan and the embarrassment of having to explain a massive debt to the jeweler Tiffany & Co.

In the time that Gingrich was gone, his organization opted to abandon him. The refusal to interrupt his vacation plans was the last straw.

Political tip: When they say you’re out of touch and an undisciplined campaigner, don’t head to Mykonos.

Power Play has seen big political missteps before (Pete Wilson’s 1995 decision to run after throat surgery that left him unable to speak comes to mind), but the succession of mistakes by Gingrich may count as the longest series of unforced errors in presidential political history.

Gingrich’s defiant suggestion is that the failure of his campaign was the fault of his staff, saying that he will now have the “substantive, solutions-oriented campaign [he] set out to run earlier this spring.” This is in keeping with Gingrich’s long-held argument that he would have a different campaign than has been run before – really more of a movement.

That’s what they all say, especially when faced with the prospect of doing what voters expect of them – dragging their old bones across Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina doing a bunch of retail politicking and baby kissing. Americans expect people to humble themselves (or be humbled) before they are allowed to lead.

Gingrich is certainly not alone in wishing that voters were more serious or that elections were about ideas and not personalities and strategies. But it doesn’t change the fact that voters generally decide based on the individual, not his platform. Candidates who lack ideological ballast sometimes exploit that, but, generally speaking, it works pretty well. Running the government is essentially a reactive job. It’s more useful to know what kind of leader someone would be than what their 37-point policy plan is for boosting agricultural exports. It’s never going to pass anyway.

Barack Obama certainly didn’t beat John McCain because of the freshman senator’s policy points. He won because he looked steadier and abler at a time of national crisis.


Weiner Won’t be Shamed

"I betrayed a lot of people and I know it. I'm trying to get back to work now and trying to make amends to my constituents and, of course, to my family….I'm going back to my community office and try to get some work done.”

-- Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., talking to the New York Post about his decision to remain in office despite bipartisan pressure for him to depart after being caught propositioning women online for cyber sex and then covering it up.

If Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., is willing to face a few days of hounding and humiliation as the misogynistic pariah of the pro-feminist Democratic caucus, he might be able to retain his office.

He would join the ranks of James Traficant and Gary Condit as objects of scorn who persist in power even after they have embarrassed themselves and the Democratic caucus – not exactly noble company – but he could hold on.

A Weiner aide told FOX News colleague Doug McKelway that a Marist College poll from early this week that a slim majority of New Yorkers believe he should stay in office has been key in informing the embattled congressman’s decision to cling to power.

If Marist were to take the same poll now, given the broader knowledge of the scandal, and the release of more gross-out details of Weiner’s risky, bullying online conduct with strange women, the result might be very different. Having seen much of the Democratic caucus abandon him because of those things – and because he made them all complicit in his massive lie – New Yorkers might have a different opinion.

The question for Weiner, though, is whether he is willing to serve out his term in ignominy. An ethics probe will take months and might not even yield his removal, but the social sanction of being an outcast will begin Monday when he returns.

But, if Weiner is willing to be humiliated this week, the maelstrom will die down and he can just continue to scrape along. Yes, the New York press will still dissect every detail of his marriage and track his comings and goings for signs of a crackup, but he could endure -- especially if he keeps groveling.

And for someone as ambitious and self-centered as Weiner, he might consider it a virtue to endure in the face of what passes for opprobrium in today’s political world.


Obama Ready to Deal on Debt

“The news economically and on the jobs front over the last several days I think underscored the importance of this meeting that we just came out of and there is as commitment for next week engaging once again in a robust series of meetings to see if we can achieve a result.”

-- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor after a negotiating session with Democrats over President Obama’s request to increase the federal government’s borrowing limit.

After a torrent of bad economic news that threatens to sink President Obama’s re-election bid, the White House is ready to deal on debt and deficits.

The looming uncertainty of possible tax hikes, a potential government shutdown and warnings about the future ratings of American debt have helped depress an already weak economy and prompted the financial world to demand action.

The administration responded Thursday with Vice President Joe Biden and his team of Democratic negotiators arriving at the latest bipartisan summit on the issue with policy specifics in hand and a schedule for three meetings next week.

A Republican source familiar with the negations said that the policy differences, especially on taxes, are still “a mile wide” but that the new sense of urgency on the Democratic side is a “good sign.”

New polls showing massive public support for the Republican demand for an increase conditioned on cuts has also probably helped focus Democrats’ thinking.

The question now for Obama is this: If he knows he has to cut a deal, will he do as he did on extending current tax rates and funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year and present the plan as an unhappy compromise of his core values or will he get hip to Bill Clinton’s brand of politics and happily take credit for moving the country to the middle?


Gates Slams Old Europe

“Furthermore, the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference."

-- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, blasting America’s European allies for lacking the military resources to carry out the Libyan intervention they so ardently sought.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates decided to ring NATO’s bell on the way out of office.

In his farewell speech to the 66-year-old treaty organization, Gates ripped America’s European allies for being unable to fight a small conflict they sought in Libya and unwilling to sustain a mission for which they volunteered in Afghanistan.

Gates said at the end of his tenure what his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, said in the middle of his: What is the point of a military alliance with nation’s that don’t have militaries?

For all the Gallic bravado that brought the alliance into the stalemated Libyan civil war, neither France nor any of the other continental saber rattlers have the military means to take on one tin-horned North African dictator.

Britain, the only other NATO power with a considerable military, won’t commit the resources to Libya and is getting ready to jump out of Afghanistan just when the American military is desperate to hold the battlefield gains of the past year.

That leaves the old alliance in three categories: the unable, the unwilling and us.

Gates expressed some nostalgia for the Cold War relevancy of the alliance, but it was that era that, in fact, brought Europe to this sad state of military readiness. With Uncle Sam taking care of the common defense against the Soviets, the war-enfeebled and socializing states of Western Europe were quite happy to spend their francs on things other than self-defense.

Gates forecast of a “dim” or “dismal” future for the alliance in which the U.S. fights and the continentals have become a sort of lightly armed Peace Corps will echo for some time.


And Now, A Word From Charles

“Obama comes in with a mandate to fix the economy. Instead, he decides he wants to change America, change finances and healthcare and energy with cap and trade. On that he failed. [Obama] decided this is a time, with the country on its back and the people demoralized as a result of the crash of 2008, in which he can change America. That is not what the country needed.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”