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Nevada presidential debate postponed in hopes of Perry candidacy

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The organizers of the next presidential debate, scheduled for mid-July in Las Vegas, postponed the event Friday in anticipation of the entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry into the race.

“We’re waiting for Perry,” said Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, which is co-sponsoring the debate with conservative Web site The Daily Caller. Norquist would not elaborate on how certain he is that Perry will run for president. But since former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney decided not to attend and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman is also unlikely to participate, it made sense to wait to see if Perry jumps in.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Perry is still exploring the possibility of running but has still not made a definite decision.

“There’s nothing new to report,” Miner said. “The governor hasn’t made his decision yet. He continues to think about a run, and that’s where it stands.”

Perry was among the stars of last weekend’s Republican Leadership Conference, generating buzz with a rousing speech that made him sound very much like a presidential candidate. He sharply criticized the Obama administration’s policies and touted his own record in Texas as an example the nation should follow.

A Perry campaign could generate excitement that some Republicans believe is missing from the current field. With a strong record of job creation in Texas and a long history of touting conservative principles, Perry is widely viewed as someone with the potential to bridge the divide between establishment Republicans and tea party conservatives.

Despite the governor’s recent statements that he holds little interest in serving in Washington, Perry strategist Dave Carney said that Perry is closer than ever to jumping in. He said that Perry wants to run but has to determine whether he could put together a competitive campaign operation at this late date.

“It’s really a logistical question: Can we build a financial infrastructure to raise the money without using so much of the governor’s time that he can’t campaign in the early states?” Carney said. “If you can do one without the other, it doesn’t really matter -- you’ve got to be able to do them both. That’s the real question, and we don’t know the answer to that.”

Perry avoided reporters’ questions about whether he will jump into the wide-open Republican field, but the crowd broke into a chant of “Run, Rick, Run!” as he left the stage.

Carney said he is exploring “logistics” in the big three of the early nominating states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — and looking at “the entire map.” He said he is talking to people in Iowa and other states to learn the dates of filing deadlines for nominating contests as well as rules for getting on the ballots of GOP straw polls. He said Perry would make a decision this summer after “evaluating that information.”

Carney added: “It’s just a matter of looking at the matrix that we’ll use and deciding to go or not go.”

The sponsors of the Nevada debate released the following statement late Friday:

“Due to scheduling conflicts and impending changes in the Republican primary field, we have decided to postpone our debate. The Daily Caller will continue to provide our audience with the most compelling and insightful coverage of the 2012 Presidential election and Americans for Tax Reform will continue to engage with the primary candidates to address the critical fiscal challenges facing our country.”

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