Ebola Case Gives Perry Real-Time Leadership Test

The first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States, and the revelation that dozens of others in Texas are now being monitored, is a potential health crisis that gives Republican Gov. Rick Perry another real-time leadership test and a chance to look presidential — or ineffective — on a national stage.

The once and possibly future White House candidate has seized on similar opportunities before. He deployed 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border this summer after assailing what he called the Obama administration's inaction amid a surge of unaccompanied immigrant children pouring into U.S. territory. Perry also helped lead emergency response efforts during a series of hurricanes that have hit Texas since he took office in December 2000, and he threw open Texas' doors to refugees in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The governor nailed the part as a calming presence during a Wednesday news conference on the Ebola diagnosis in Dallas, saying, "Rest assured, our system is working as it should." But the same event later got dicey, when Dallas hospital officials standing alongside Perry acknowledged that they had initially sent patient Thomas Eric Duncan home with antibiotics, even though he reported that he had recently been in Liberia.

It underscored how precarious this potential opportunity is for Perry. Just as the Ebola case could boost him nationally if things go right, it could make him look weak if the virus spreads. Indeed, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a potential 2016 rival of Perry's, and other Republicans have already begun criticizing the federal government for downplaying the Ebola threat — and Perry has potentially opened himself to similar attacks.

"Right now Perry's saying and doing the right things," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "If he is ultimately able to shepherd and neutralize this situation, it will certainly benefit his 2016 aspirations."

Read more from Will Weissert at The Associated Press

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