What started his come back?
I think you can pinpoint several moments that had a big impact, including tea parties, but Rick's rejection of unemployment insurance stimulus dollars, which would have required the state of Texas to change its UI program... something the state had rejected many many times in the past...
Rick consulted with all the major business groups in Texas... the Texas Association of Business... the NFIB... basically all of them not affiliated with partisan Democrats... and they all supported him rejecting the mandates on Texas employers.
Because it was not even close to "free" money, and in fact would have forced Texas businesses to pay far more over time due to the federal mandates, Rick made the right choice. Obviously.
Kay criticized Rick for it. She lost ground. Rick gained. It was a good story for Rick, and not just with primary voters... polls showed strong majorities of Texans... more than 2/3 (link) of all political backgrounds in support of the rejection (link). Correspondence to Rick's office on the subject favored Rick's decision 2-to-1 according to an open records request (link).
The Wall Street Journal sez it best (link). Excerpt follows...
A few governors, such as Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Rick Perry of Texas, had the foresight to turn down their share of the $7 billion for unemployment insurance, realizing that once the federal funds run out, benefits would be unpayable. "One of the smartest decisions we made," says Mr. Daniels. Many governors now probably wish they had done the same.
So when Bill White dredges this same attack up, does he think it will actually work?
Bill White is running a terrible campaign so far. All the same mistakes that Kay made, without her popularity and deep connections backing him up. Bill White is latching on to something RINO Obama-carrying (link) Texas State Senator Kevin Eltife said about "free money" that Rick rejected, which is pure idiocy. Kevin Eltife fought back at the time, and lost 19-11 in the Texas Senate (link).
We specifically do not need fools like Bill White and frankly Kevin Eltife who conclude that strings attached money from the federal government is "free money."
That is exactly why so many other states are in such worse shape than Texas...