"I don't know what the Republican field looks like in 2024, but why not someone with that background and set of credentials?" Shaw said. "I thought this in 2012, 'Man, this guy is well-positioned.' Here I am again in 2020, 'Man, he's well-positioned if he wants to be.'"
"I grew up in Paint Creek, Texas. If you can't find it on a map, I won't be surprised. Just look for Haskell, Texas, population 3,000, and then go a few miles to the south and the east and you might find it," Perry wrote in the preface to his 2010 book, "Fed Up."
"We were cotton farmers. We believed in God, we believed in taking care of ourselves and one another, and we believed that America was the greatest nation on Earth. We still do."
"He embodies the story of Texas," said U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, the freshman congressman from Hays County who collaborated with Perry on the writing of 'Fed Up,' codifying Perry's politically shrewd early embrace of the tea party movement.
"Air Force veteran, Aggie, rancher family, no indoor plumbing, but anything is possible, an eternal optimism that has always captured my respect and admiration," Roy said.
With luck and pluck, he made his way, a three-term Democratic state representative from West Texas who switched parties and narrowly upset Jim Hightower, the popular populist Democratic agriculture commissioner, by a point in 1990, the same year Democrat Ann Richards was being elected governor.
"He got elected purely out of the blue, landed on his feet and kept on running to the top," said Bill Miller, a prominent Austin lobbyist and consultant.
"He was smart about maximizing every opportunity that came his way," Miller said, and he delighted in every aspect of running and governing. "It was never a chore. It was always fun."
In 1998, Perry defeated Comptroller John Sharp, a close friend from Texas A&M University, for lieutenant governor by barely 2 percentage points, even as Gov. George W. Bush, preparing for a presidential campaign, won reelection in a landslide. When Bush became president, Perry became governor. Reelected three times, he gained a firmer grip on Texas government than any governor before him.
"I was always in awe of the way that Rick Perry could wield power effectively to achieve what he wanted to do and not just for wielding power's sake," said Jason Stanford, who managed Democrat Chris Bell's 2006 campaign against Perry. Five years later, Stanford co-wrote with James Moore the book "Adios Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush."