Texas Gov. Rick Perry acknowledged Friday that he will consider a bid for president, reversing his past opposition to the race and setting up a period of intense speculation about whether he will run and whether he can win.

“I’m gonna think about it,” Perry said when asked about the presidential race.

“The discussion about the governor’s fiscal and social conservative successes can’t help but get one’s attention,” said Sullivan. “It has been loud and enthusiastic and flattering.”

Sullivan added that Perry “has done nothing different, has no intention of running and has done nothing to fan the flames.”

What’s clear, however, is that Perry’s thinking on the race has evolved somewhat over the past six months. With several potential top -tier contenders like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels deciding against running, space has opened up for someone like Perry — a fiscal conservative with close ties to the tea party — to not only run but to be a major player in the contest.

And while Perry has been courted by some conservative leaders for months, the pace and tenor of those entreaties has increased exponentially in recent weeks, according to those close to the governor.

Remember that Perry has been going full-speed politically since 2008 — he bounced from a serious primary challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to a targeted general election fight against former Houston Mayor Bill White to the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association to the state’s biennial legislative session all in the space of the last three years.

The Texas legislative session is scheduled to end on Monday. Next week then will be Perry’s first time to sit down and give the race a serious look.

As we’ve written before, it seems less than likely that he runs: his two top political aides have signed on with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and Perry has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to come to Washington.

But, the allure of a wide open presidential race is powerful — perhaps even to Perry. Stay tuned.

Below are our rankings of the ten men and women most likely to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Agree? Disagree? The comment section awaits.

To the Line!

10. Ron Paul: The Texas Congressman came in at ten percent in a Gallup poll this week, a sign that the he’s benefiting from the unsettled Republican field. The libertarian-minded House member is still not likely to win any primaries given his deviations from mainstream Republican policy, but he might have a bigger impact on the race than he did in 2008 thanks to his name identification and strong following among some in the tea party movement. (Previous ranking: N/A)

9. Rick Santorum: The former Pennsylvania senator is set to announce his presidential campaign on June 6 in his home state. But the really crucial day for him will by July 15, when second quarter financial reports are due to the Federal Election Commission. Santorum is caught somewhere between the buzz-worthy tea party candidates and the steadier establishment candidates, and since he’s not near the top of either of those lists, fundraising could prove difficult. (Previous ranking: 9)

8. Herman Cain: The former Godfather’s Pizza executive was the biggest beneficiary of the primary’s first debate earlier this month, and his stock — and poll numbers — have now risen to the point where people are beginning to take him seriously. Still, there are lots of obstacles in his way, not the least of which is that he’s never won a political office and it’s not clear that he can raise money to even be competitive beyond Iowa. Still, buzz is invaluable, and perhaps more than any other candidate, Cain’s got it at the moment. (Previous ranking: N/A)

7. Rick Perry: As we noted above, there is a case to be made that, if he runs, Perry is a major force in the fight for the Republican nomination. If Perry starts to look more like a candidate, he’ll move up the Line. (Previous ranking: N/A)

6. Newt Gingrich: Since launching his campaign on May 11, the former House Speaker has had nothing but bad news. He reminded Republicans of some of his long-standing flaws when he called the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) “radical” and “right-wing social engineering.” Gingrich’s reaction, and his staff’s subsequent over-the-top attack on the media, raise questions about whether he is prepared for the glare of a presidential campaign. The election is a long way away and he has time to bounce back, but Gingrich has a lot of work to do just to get back to where he was pre-rollout. (Previous ranking: 5)

5. Michele Bachmann: The Minnesota Congresswoman is the most obvious beneficiary of Huckabee’s decision not to run. Not only does it allow Bachmann to make inroads among social conservatives, it also puts Iowa totally up for grabs. If former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is getting closer to running for president, however, Bachmann could suffer as they share a base among social conservative voters and have a similar outspoken — and controversial — approach to politics. (Previous ranking: 7)

4. Sarah Palin: After months of near silence, the former Alaska governor is back in high gear -- she’s launching a bus tour of historic cities, a movie about her life is coming out, and she appears to have bought a home in Arizona. Yet she still has not laid the groundwork for a serious campaign, nor has she visited Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina this year. If she does run, she will be gambling on her star power to outweigh her lack of infrastructure,. All that said, a Palin campaign certainly looks more likely than it did a month ago. (Previous ranking: 6)

3. Jon Huntsman: Huntsman’s early visits to South Carolina and New Hampshire drew massive amounts of press attention and generally positive buzz. And, he is putting together serious campaign operations in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida — the only person aside from the two men ranked above him on the Line to be doing that. And yet, he still has a resume full of holes when it comes to the Republican electorate namely: his work in the Obama Administration, his support for cap and trade legislation and his support for civil unions. Those contradictions make ranking Huntsman very, very difficult. He could fit anywhere from this spot to number six or seven on the Line. We’ll put him this high for the moment based on his potential as a candidate, his personal wealth and the desire in some parts of the GOP establishment to rally behind someone not named Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. (Previous ranking: 8)

2. Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty’s decision to call for an end to ethanol subsidies during his announcement speech in Iowa earlier this week was a gutsy one and, to hear his allies tell it, was a sign that the former Minnesota governor isn’t going to play it safe in the race. Time will tell if he can stick to that tough-talk approach. But, at the moment, Pawlenty has to be thrilled with where he stands. With Huckabee and Daniels not running, Pawlenty is entrenched in the top tier. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. Mitt Romney: In case there was any doubt about who the frontrunner for theGOP nomination actually is, Romney cleared it up when he raised more than $10 million in a single day earlier this month. Money isn’t the only structural advantage he has over his rivals; he’s kept much of his national and state operations together over the last three years, which gives him an organizational head start. Still, health care remains a major hurdle for Romney and one that ensures there will be a serious anti-Romney candidate in the field. (Previous ranking: 1)