Primary Status: NH Perry advisers Carney, Young speak out on failed campaign
By JOHN DiSTASO Senior Political Reporter
THURSDAY, JAN. 19: REFLECTIONS ON A FAILED CAMPAIGN. Top New Hampshire backers of Texas Gov. Rick Perry Thursday attributed his failed campaign to a late entrance into the race, a string of poor debate performances and his decision not to campaign in the Granite State.
Bypassing New Hampshire “was a big mistake,” said Paul Young, Perry's senior adviser in the first-primary state.
“You see it every cycle,” Young said. “These high-priced consultants pick and choose where they want to play and it's a strategy that never works. You've got to campaign everywhere. You've got to campaign in New Hampshire.”
David Carney of Hancock, a nationally-known political strategist, had been Perry's top political adviser since he ran for lieutenant governor of Texas in 1997. Carney and others left the Newt Gingrich campaign in June to go with his long-time friend and boss as he mulled a presidential run, and eventually decided to run.
At first, Carney was Perry's chief presidential campaign strategist, but in the fall, when a new regime headed by former George W. Bush advisor Joe Allbaugh was brought in by Perry, Carney's role was severely diminished, even if he was not officially demoted.
As it turned out, Carney was not in South Carolina today when Perry dropped out. He was home in Hancock.
In fact, Carney told the Primary Status today, “I haven't been actively involved in the campaign for quite a while, a few months.”
Carney, a well-respected political operative who got his start in Gov. John H. Sununu's State House office in the early 1980s and who headed the George H.W. Bush (41) White House political office, declined to criticize the Allbaugh regime in retrospect.
He chalked up the failure of the Perry campaign to getting a late start in August, saying, “150 days is not enough time to be prepared and execute and run a campaign and raise money and do all the things that are necessary in the early state to be competitive. Just not enough time to lay the groundwork and build a foundation to run a campaign.
“We knew in the very beginning that this would be our biggest detriment,” Carney said. “All the ups and downs of the campaign were based on the fact that there just wasn't enough time.”
Carney said that “not having enough time to campaign in New Hampshire was one of the biggest drawbacks. Having 150 days divided up between the states, the debates, the fund-raising, the necessary work you have to do to lay the groundwork in the various states became very difficult to run a real campaign. In a state like New Hampshire, if you don't have the time, you can't compete.”
Carney did not want to talk about the big change in his role that led to him eventually parting ways with the campaign.
Asked to explain how his role changed, he said, “I honestly don't know the answer to that. I honestly don't know what happened.”
He added, “We had always planned to bring in additional people to help with execution of our media plan,” He called it “an evolution,” but added, “I don't know what happened, and I was there.”
Young said that while he agreed that Perry's campaign was hurt by the late start, he believes Perry and his hierarchy also blew an opportunity to build on the excitement he initially generated in New Hampshire .
After Young led a group of Granite Staters to Austin to talk to Perry about running, Perry began his campaign with several high-profile trips to New Hampshire, but then simply stopped coming here, focusing on Iowa, and then South Carolina.
Young said he believes that if Carney had remained in a top position in the campaign, Perry would have campaigned more in New Hampshire. And while Perry may not have defeated Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, Young believes he could have risen to become the conservative alternative to Romney here and could have ridden that bounce into South Carolina.
“We would have played in New Hampshire and done at least as well as we did in Iowa, if not better. And who knows where that would have put us?” Young said.
But while the strategy failed, Young said Perry's biggest problem was his three disastrous debates.
“They were an issue,” Young said. “And that may be an understatement.”
Young, who, like Carney, has spent three decades in state and national GOP politics, said Perry's New Hampshire staff and top supporters “was definitely the best campaign team I've ever been associated with. Really high quality people. People like Kerry Marsh, Gordon Humphrey, John Stephen, Jim Adams, Emile Beaulieu and Pam Tucker and countless volunteers. They worked hard and we had a lot of momentum going.”
But Young said that once Allbaugh, Tony Fabrizio and Nelson Warfield took over the campaign, New Hampshire was virtually ignored.
“I never heard from Joe Allbaugh,” said Young. “If I was standing next to him, I still wouldn't know who he was.”
Young said the New Hampshire campaign was never given official word that the state would be bypassed, but, “I figured it out pretty quickly. Still to this day, I never got official word on it.
“When they do things like cut out the mail budget and stop going on TV, you can kind of figure it out,” he said.
“But ultimately, the debates were so impactful that I don't know if Superman could have turned it around,” Young said. “It creates an image and reputation that's very hard to overcome.”
Carney speculated that Perry may run again eventually for President, noting that many presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, John McCain and George H.W. Bush, were unsuccessful in their initial attempts at winning the GOP nomination.
Carney said he agreed with Perry's backing of Gingrich as “the best alternative to Mitt Romney. Everyone is somewhat flawed, but in terms of experience and stature and energy and ideas and having a national infrastructure in place, even though it's a skeletal one, I think Newt is the most logical choice for anybody who's not for Romney.”
“Ultimately,” said Carney, “anyone can sit back and say, ‘We should have done this or that.' When you bring in a lot of new people who are inexperienced with the candidate, it causes a lot of internal debate, and obviously, a lot of these issues would have been resolved had there been more time to lay a foundation in the various states.”
Carney praised the New Hampshire campaign operation, but said “There wasn't enough time to maintain the vineyards and grow the organization with the candidate's personal time. In terms of different strategies, there are a lot of different ways to go and the consensus was to go in a different direction from what other people preferred. Very few times do you have unanimity in every decision.”
Carney said the decision not to campaign in New Hampshire “had less to do with the evolution of the campaign and was more about” Perry's staunch socially conservative message.
Kerry Marsh, Perry's former state campaign manager, has now returned to her full-time post as an executive at Spectrum Marketing in Manchester.
“I think we learned that you can't bank on one state,” she said. “We learned that from candidates such as Jon Huntsman and Rudy Giuliani that it's just not the way to go.”
“I learned a lot,” she said. “But I do wish he would have done things differently.”
Marsh said it became clear in late November that “they were putting all of their efforts into Iowa, which kind of made sense, since Iowa is more conservative when it comes to religious conservatives. And he fit more of that mold, but I think you still need to concentrate on all the states.
“And you need to focus on the retail aspect, too,” said Marsh. “That's a lesson for all the candidates moving forward. You have to have an infrastructure on the ground and have to engage in retail politics as well as doing debates.”