Gov. Rick Perry has insisted on multiple occasions that he has no interest in the presidency, but RCP has learned that political associates have begun to nose around quietly on Perry's behalf.
A Texas pol who is close to Perry has been telling a few key strategists that the nation's longest-serving governor sees a vacuum and is waiting to be summoned into the race. This source believes that could happen by late summer. Without fellow Southerners Haley Barbour or Mike Huckabee in the race -- and with Newt Gingrich's early troubles raising further doubts about the current lineup -- there could be a glaring niche for Perry to fill.
According to another well-connected Republican, at least one Perry confidant has been very quietly making inquiries about the political terrain in the nation's first voting state of Iowa. A third Perry associate, RCP has learned, has been heralding a small contingent of Iowans with the time-tested line that is often used by would-be candidates who are leaving their options open: "Keep your powder dry."
A very premature analysis: On the plus side, Perry has an engaging personality, he's presided over a ruthlessly effective political operation in Texas, and has sufficient grassroots cred to avoid the 'establishment' label. Above all else, his conservative policies have spurred robust economic and employment growth in the Lone Star state. While most other states are drowning in red ink, Texas thrives.
Perry also comes with a few drawbacks. His inner loose cannon discharged a few years back when he started provocatively hinting at secession, and -- as superficial as this may sound -- his speech pattern strongly resembles that of another recent Texas Governor-turned-President. Are Americans ready to elect a man who sometimes sounds like he's perfecting a dead-on George W. Bush impression?
Then again, if people were willing to glom onto Donald Trump because they saw him as a "straight shooter," or whatever, who's to say Rick Perry -- a wildly successful 10-year Governor from a huge state couldn't catch fire?