Even where he was defeated, Perry won points from conservatives for putting up a fight. He tried to ban “sanctuary cities” where police are not allowed to question the immigration status of people they detain. And he forced the lawmakers to vote on an “anti-groping” bill that could have put Transportation Security Administration agents in prison if they do intrusive pat-downs.
Yet as the Texas House was staggering over the finish line Wednesday morning after 170 days of legislating, the governor who had pushed them so hard was not even in the state. He was in California for several days of speechmaking and schmoozing with activists, elected officials and business leaders.
Perry, who declined a request for an interview, is expected to decide within the next few weeks whether to jump into the race for the 2012 GOP nomination. Many here are betting that he will.
“He has shown every indication he is serious about running,” said Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.
If he does, it could roil a presidential field that many Republicans find lacking.
At a time when the Republican Party is being pulled between its establishment and insurgent forces, Perry has the potential to appeal to both.
He is currently the nation’s longest-serving governor, and the longest in Texas history, as well as head of the Republican Governors Association. But his brash, unapologetic conservatism also has elevated him to near-hero status among the tea party. Perry was one of the first big-name politicians to recognize the potential of the movement, headlining no fewer than three of their earliest rallies in Texas on April 15, 2009.
Still, with so many other contenders already out campaigning, there is a real question as to whether Perry has waited too long. Among the biggest factors he must consider, his advisers say, is whether he would have enough time and money to get a credible operation off the ground.
“Those are logistical and legitimate hurdles. If we can solve those, the rest of it — the politics — can take care of itself,” said political consultant Dave Carney, a longtime Perry adviser. Carney recently fled former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s foundering campaign, where he had been serving as a top strategist, and is now assisting Perry in making up his mind.
Carney said that if Perry runs, he will campaign across the map, starting in Iowa. His strategists have been checking in with officials in various states to figure out the deadlines and other requirements for getting on the ballot; meanwhile, two dozen or so of Perry’s most loyal backers — about half of them Texans — are working their contacts to figure out how much financial support could be put together quickly.