After RealClearPolitics first reported last month that aides to Texas Gov. Rick Perry have been putting out feelers for a presidential bid, many pundits dismissed the prospects of Perry following through, noting that his top political aides were already working for Newt Gingrich's campaign.
Those aides have now resigned from Gingrich's presidential effort, and Perry has admitted publicly that he is actively considering a White House run.Adding more fuel to the fire, a source close to Perry's political team told RealClearPolitics on Thursday afternoon that the Texas governor is "leaning toward getting in" to the race.
Two of Perry's longtime political aides, Dave Carney and Rob Johnson, were among the large group of advisers who announced Thursday that they were leaving Gingrich's team. Carney has been a top political adviser to Perry for 14 years and continues to counsel him, and Johnson managed his most recent gubernatorial campaign.
Republican insiders expect that both would join a Perry presidential effort if he were to launch one.
As a prominent Texan with a longtime political infrastructure, not to mention a key finance perch atop the Republican Governors Association, Perry could gear up for a race more quickly than most of the top GOP politicians eyeing a 2012 run.
Though he is widely regarded as the first nationally known politician to embrace the tea party movement with open arms, Perry could also be well-positioned to generate sufficient backing among members of the Republican establishment.
Perry is said to have a solid relationship with his predecessor at the RGA, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who declined to run for president himself.
And in an election that is almost certain to hinge on the economy, Perry is well-positioned to tout his record on creating jobs and keeping taxes low.
"Rick Perry really has a compelling story, because at the end of the day, the U.S. economy is not going to improve, and his record as Texas governor is basically among the best in the nation among chief executives," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told RCP. "The key for Perry, if he should enter the race, is not to be a flamethrower but more of a refined candidate who demonstrates message discipline."
Perry's candidacy could return the focus of the GOP primaries back to Iowa and South Carolina at a time when New Hampshire has been getting the most attention from the establishment-aligned candidates.
A Perry campaign might also pose significant problems for potential candidates Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, both of whom share a similar political base of tea party-aligned voters.
"If Rick Perry gets in this race, it's very hard to see any path to victory for Michele Bachmann in a national context," New Hampshire GOP strategist Jamie Burnett said.