"If the real Rick Perry had been at those debates, he would still be in the race," Nugent told the Tribune Friday. "It is my firm belief that Rick Perry would have [made] and would make the best president we could choose."
Perry's poll numbers plummetted following a string of poor debate performances and public gaffes, and he dropped out in January for what Nugent called "understandable" reasons.
"Whatever occurred at those early debates that caused the real Rick Perry to take a back seat to whoever that was literally caused my wife to cry," Nugent said. "We thought, 'Has he been advised by idiots?' To this day, we still don't know what happened."
Since Perry's departure from the race, Nugent has been studying his options, which also include former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside.
Of the group, Romney is generally considered the most moderate -- something Nugent, particularly known for his advocacy of gun rights, is decidedly not. But he says he is not swayed by pundits. "If the media says one and one equals three, I'm sticking with two," he said.
Nugent described himself as an "improvise, adapt, and overcome" guy and said he doesn't begrudge Romney for positions he has taken in the past. For example, while Nugent admits to being "offended and repulsed" when Romney signed off on an assault weapons ban during his time as governor, he understood the context given Romney's location at the time.
"He was in Massachusetts," Nugent said. "He wasn't in America."
It was on a phone call with the candidate earlier today that Nugent gave his blessing. He talked to Romney by phone while he was at a sporting goods store in Michigan "celebrating the orgy of guns and ammos and bows and arrows and camouflage clothing and hunting and fishing and outdoor family supplies."
Before endorsing him, Nugent demanded that Romney pledge there would be no new gun laws or restrictions on Second Amendment rights in his administration. Romney obliged. Nugent also warned Romney about the "out of control" U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
"These are not Ted Nugent demands," he said. "They're logic demands. They're 'we the people' demands. They're right over wrong, good over bad."
Nugent summed up his position on the Perry-less primary race in this way:
"Basically, America is in a suicidal tailspin right now. Our government is out of control. The power abuse, the corruption, the insanity of spending money that will never exist... The conclusion based on all the evidence I can find is that Mitt Romney has the best shot at bringing the U.S. Constituion, common sense, and the American way back to the White House."