Among Perry’s key assets is a loyal, long-serving campaign team widely admired, and even feared, across the Lone Star State. Led by veteran New Hampshire operative Dave Carney, Team Perry is shrewd, flexible, ruthless, and—ironically, considering the gov’s fire-aim-ready rep—obsessed with hard data and the science of campaigning. (For details, check out Sasha Issenberg’s new book, Rick Perry and His Eggheads.)
“This is a team that does not go with gut instinct or seat of the pants,” stresses Mike Baselice, who has been Perry’s pollster for more than two decades. “It’s empirical-research driven.”
Carney in particular is “a guy driven by numbers and driven by data in a profession of people driven by instincts,” notes a Republican consultant with close ties to the governor. As a result, he says, the team “understands how to spend campaign resources and where to spend them.”
Of course, no amount of research will save you if your candidate is a disaster. But here again, Perry is not the half-cocked yahoo his critics assume. Oh, sure, the governor has a mouth on him and is prone to colorful gaffes—such as chalking up the BP oil spill to “just an act of God.” But Texas political watchers from across the spectrum have stressed to me over the years that, come crunch time, Perry buckles down and stays relentlessly on message. And his campaign team works hard to ensure that message is neither too broad, too cluttered, nor too complicated.
See a Texas Observer profile of Carney.