CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The last time voters in New Hampshire saw Rick Perry, the Texas governor’s 2012 presidential bid had fallen apart after a series of gaffes punctuated by a much-maligned stumble during a televised debate.
When he visits the key early-voting state this weekend, he’ll have a new hurdle — his indictment on abuse-of-power charges — and much to prove to Republicans watching his handling of the matter for clues to his 2016 presidential prospects.
“I don’t think (Republicans) will take the indictment so seriously but they want to see if this Rick Perry is able to contend with adversity the way the other Rick Perry was unable to,” said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. “The last time they saw him, he was stumbling around.”
Others who agree with Perry that the indictment is politically motivated and without substance say his record in office will be their focus.
“People are going to want to see what he’s saying about immigration because that’s an issue that’s certainly going to come up in the November elections,” said state senator and former Congressman Jeb Bradley. “They’re also going to want to hear why is the Texas economy one of the best in the nation and what can we learn about it here in New Hampshire.”
The visit comes after a grand jury handed up the indictment Friday, charging Perry with carrying out a threat to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state’s public integrity unit after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign following a well-publicized drunken driving arrest. Perry faces charges that carry a maximum sentence of 109 years in prison.
The extent to which Perry can take command of his press coverage in the politically important state will be considered by some a measure of his viability in the presidential arena.
Aides have said Perry plans to maintain his public schedule, in which he’ll make a half-dozen stops in New Hampshire and later visit the key battleground states of Iowa and South Carolina.
Arizona Sen. John McCain scoffed at Perry’s indictment.
McCain knows New Hampshire’s voters. He captured the state’s presidential primary in 2000 and 2008 and campaigned Monday for Senate hopeful Scott Brown.
“I just think it’s outrageous from everything I can tell and I think it will help him in the long run,” McCain said, suggesting Perry make repeated stops in the state. “People want to meet you more than once in New Hampshire.”
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.