Aide: Perry Still "Weeks Away" From Big Decision

Political consultant Dave Carney in November 2010.
Political consultant Dave Carney in November 2010.

Rick Perry’s top strategist said Saturday that the Texas governor is still “at least weeks” away from making a decision about whether to run for president, a daunting financial and logistical undertaking even without the time pressures of a late entry.

New Hampshire-based consultant Dave Carney, who has worked for Perry for more than a decade, said he is pulling together key dates and deadlines for the governor so that he can make an informed decision about whether to run for the White House.

Carney, in an extensive breakfast interview with the Tribune, said it was still a “50-50” proposition.

“We don’t even know all the logistics of it. This is not a situation where you throw your hat into the ring and say 'I’m next.' There’s a lot of effort that has to go into this,” Carney said. “If you don’t have a finance committee, people willing around the country to raise millions of dollars on their own with little support from the candidate himself because of the time constraints, then it’s not going to work … is there political support out there enough to wage battles in the early states? Those are big questions. We would be running in a field with a bunch of other people who have been at this longer than we have.”

Carney spoke of the governor's potential candidacy as Perry finishes up a national swing of sorts. He spoke to thousands of mostly Hispanic activists at a pro-life event in Los Angeles last weekend, hit the Big Apple on Monday, traveled to North Carolina for a Republican Governors Association at mid-week and is now in New Orleans to address the Republican Leadership Conference. The New Orleans event is drawing a horde of declared candidates, including U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, businessman Herman Cain, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Perry signed copies of his Washington-bashing book Fed Up! this morning and is scheduled to speak to the group in the afternoon.

While Perry is not in the declared category, Carney said he was pulling together logistical data, information about federal campaign finance procedures and dates of straw polls, like the highly watched ones in Iowa and Florida — non-binding contests that are nevertheless important events that spark major media interest in the run-up to voting that begins in January.

What Team Perry is not worried about is the governor’s message and record, Carney said. He said voters are looking for a 2012 presidential candidate who will “take the wood to Obama.”

“I think our advantage is our record compared to Obama’s record. We would look at  the success of creating a jobs at a time when the entire county is losing jobs .. and not just some jobs, almost the majority of jobs,” Carney told the Tribune. “The governor’s philosophy is so perfectly balanced, as a counterbalance, to Obama’s philosophy, that I think we would make it a very compelling case. It’s not a feeling. It’s a reality.”

Perry for months said he did not want to go to Washington, as a presidential candidate or anything else. But in recent weeks, amid a GOP field perceived as weak and unsettled by both commentators and activists, Perry began to reconsider. Carney cited Rush Limbaugh’s 20-minute-long tribute in mid-May, when the radio host said Perry had the potential to “light this up.”

Carney said there was this “organic explosion of support, just coming out of the woodwork.” He said Perry decided to look into the possibility of running in late May.

“I think the number of people that talk to him are concerned about the country and think we need to have the best shot at trying to stop Obama another four years, and in their opinion Gov. Perry is that person,” Carney said. “So I think he felt an obligation to give it a serious look.”

Texas first lady Anita Perry also played a key role in getting him to think about it.

“She would like him to do it. She thinks the country is heading in a really bad direction,” Carney said. “If she wasn’t supportive he wouldn’t be doing this.”

Carney said deciding whether to run for the White House is much more serious than the “why the hell not” calculus that humorist Kinky Friedman once applied to his race for governor (against Perry) in 2006.

“This is an unbelievably brutal grind,” said Carney, who just made an abrupt exit from the faltering campaign of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “It takes a toll on your family. You really have to be focused on it aggressively.” Gingrich spoke at the New Orleans conference on Thursday.

Carney said it would be “particularly brutal” for Perry given the fact that he would be starting later than the other candidates out there now.

“This is totally uncontrived, unplanned. We haven’t had the master plan that is all ready to roll out,” Carney said. “And everyday that goes by is, you know — tick tock, tick tock.”

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