Texas Governor Rick Perry turned himself in to the Travis County Jail at 5pm on Tuesday local time to have his fingerprints and a mug shot taken, which may not be the image the presumed 2016 presidential candidate really wants out there at the moment.
Perry has been indicted on two felony counts – one of abuse of power by intentionally misusing government property to harm someone, and one of coercion of a public servant.
Rick Perry indictment 'a political act'
US Governor Rick Perry responds to charges regarding abuse of power in Texas.
He denies the charges and says they are politically motivated and many people – not all of them Republicans – agree with him.
Politically motivated or not, the prosecution might still land Perry in serious trouble. For months now, the received wisdom has been that, while the Democratic Party enjoyed the benefit of having in Hillary Clinton a candidate presumed to be inevitable, the Republicans had the luxury of a “deep bench”, a pool of well-qualified candidates to be vetted before and during the primary election season.
But that pool has been shrinking.
Perry’s trouble started with his political feud with Rosemary Lehmberg, the Democrat who is the elected Attorney-General of Travis County, the lonely liberal county that takes in Austin, the capital of this very conservative state.
Lehmberg had been picked up for drink driving (you can see her agonising 10-minute field sobriety test here) but declined to resign.
In turn, Perry said he would veto her office’s budget unless she went.
Democrats responded by having a special prosecutor appointed to investigate and Perry has said he will fight the charges and win.
Perry is not a man given to self-doubt. He was the man whose last presidential campaign flamed out when he boasted on stage during a debate that he would scrap three major federal government agencies – education, commerce and “let’s see. I can’t ... the third one. I can’t. Sorry Oops.” (Here is that video, shorter than Lehmberg’s, but just as painful.)
Despite the "Oops" moment, Perry has been laying the groundwork for a second run. The Des Moines Register reported that, after being thanked by the moderator for a speech at the Iowa state fair last Tuesday, he responded: “You’re welcome. I’m awesome.”
Following are other awesome members of the Republican Party's deep bench:
Chris Christie The populist New Jersey Governor has a high national profile and was considered to have the potential to reach across party lines to win an election. After the scandal in which he was accused of closing a commuter bridge to punish an unco-operative mayor, he has been badly damaged. Some have cruelly now referred to him as the “Bruce Willis character from Sixth Sense”, the last guy in the room to realise he is dead.
Jeb Bush Rumours that the son and brother of former presidents is in the race chop and change. His position on immigration makes him a particularly interesting figure to watch. In April, he said that illegally bringing a family member over the border for a new life was an “act of love”. The statement makes it at once harder for him to win at a primary and far more dangerous to Democrats should he become the candidate. But his family name remains a hindrance, not just because of his brother’s legacy in Iraq, but among those who instinctively distrust dynasties.
Rand Paul The first-term libertarian senator and darling of some big money donors is gaining plaudits from liberals who approve of his stand against growing police power and the national security state. He's also been taking advantage of the travails of Christie and Marco Rubio, maintaining a slow rise in the polls to the top tier of candidates. He is benefiting at the moment from a New York Times Magazine cover story asking if the “libertarian moment” had arrived.
Marco Rubio Still another first-term senator and from a key swing state, Rubio has seen his star diminish drastically over the past year. Rubio cast himself as the party's Great Latin Hope, but his attempts to forge an immigration compromise blew up in his face, angering the Reblicans' nativist base and leading fellow Latinos to conclude he is all talk and no action. His fall from the top of the polls has been dizzying.
Ted Cruz Lurking just outside the top tier of Republican candidates, Cruz, another first term senator, has the admiration of Tea Party hardliners and the distrust of party insiders. He courts controversy, but has faded from the news in recent months as Obamacare, against which Cruz has cast himself as a right-wing crusader, recedes from the headlines.
Bobby Jindal Like Cruz and Rubio, Jindal is in his early 40s and, like Rubio, he's not white in a party trying to appeal beyond its white base. However, Jindal is languishing near the bottom of the polls, is largely unknown outside politico circles and isn't the darling of the party's religious right wing, which he has aligned himself with. Being Governor of Louisiana may not help much, as many Americans regard it as an oddball state known mostly for corruption and French Quarter partying.
Scott Walker Hovering somewhere between Rubio and Jindal in the polls, Walker is beloved by the party's libertarian wing for his harsh attacks on unions in Wisconsin, the state he governs. He's got a story to tell that Republican voters like to hear, but he's in a dogfight to get re-elected this year so he must clear that hurdle first. A campaign funding investigation threatens to harm his reputation.