Rick Perry Exit From 2016 Contest Would Likely Benefit Ted Cruz in Texas Primary Race

The news of the Rick Perry campaign's problems meeting payroll is feeding expectations that the former Texas governor's second bid for the presidential nomination is nearing its end. The Perry campaign is pushing back, with "living off the land" the meme of the day. Their messaging notwithstanding, it's fair to consider the possible implications of a Perry exit - including speculating on where what meager voter support he has mustered might go.

His low poll numbers in both national polls and polls in the early primary and caucus states don't leave much in the way of leftovers for the other GOP candidates to try to bring to their tables. Perry doesn't seem to have generated enough supporters to initiate a wooing process on any significant scale in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, or even South Carolina.

Perry hasn't dominated the polls in his home state of Texas, either – a gloomy leading indicator for his 2016 campaign since it's earliest days – but he did finish directly behind Ted Cruz in the June 2015 UT/Texas Tribune Poll, the first choice of 12 percent of potential GOP primary voters – an improvement after his single-digit showing the previous February. These are leftovers worth reaching for, so it's worth looking at who the Texas Perry supporters said would be their second choice among the remaining candidates.

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CandidateSecond Choice
Ted Cruz26%
Mike Huckabee16%
Marco Rubio12%
Jeb Bush11%
Scott Walker7%
Donald Trump7%
Ben Carson5%
Rand Paul4%
Chris Christie1%
Lindsey Graham1%
Rick Santorum1%

As of June, about a quarter of Perry's supporters would move their vote to Cruz as a second choice. There is likely a favorite son effect in this display of support, especially at this early point in the campaign in which most voters have little knowledge of the dizzying array of other candidates. But there are also some indications of the likely ideological composition of Perry supporters suggested here, too.  Mike Huckabee, the second choice of 16 percent of the Perry voters, resonates with religious conservatives who supported Perry faithfully during his career in state politics. Jeb Bush, of course, benefits from his name with some Texas Republicans who would default to Perry, but also might have substantive appeal to those who view Perry as a can-do guy with a conservative record of governance. Similarly, Marco Rubio has projected a conservative but practical profile that might also appeal to Perry supporters.

These results were also collected before the Donald Trump eruption into the GOP campaign. Trump's numbers were low both among first and second choices, and very likely would have been higher had the poll, fielded in early June, been conducted six weeks later. But it is also likely that Trump's numbers will decline again given the continued negative media coverage and seemingly universal opposition of GOP elites. In such a scenario, in Texas and, probably to a lesser degree nationally, Cruz is one of the candidates in a good position to pick up Trump supporters given the similarity in their anti-establishment approaches. We'll take a deeper look at some underlying numbers on that front in another post soon.