The Big Conversation:
The opening for Gov. Rick Perry among Republican voters could be even bigger than once thought.
So says The Washington Post, which on Tuesday reported that — according to "19 major donors, strategists and party officials in 13 states interviewed this week" — the majority of the GOP establishment remains uncommitted.
That's good news for Perry, who, as Politico reports today, is still weighing the challenges a late entry would pose in terms of fundraising and building a campaign infrastructure.
Establishment Republicans, the Post notes, haven't ruled out supporting early front-runner Mitt Romney, but the former Massachusetts governor hasn't closed the deal with a sizable chunk of the party. Former Govs. Jon Huntsman of Utah and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota still have supporters, but neither candidate has gained much traction among primary voters. And though she's surging in some polls and among social conservatives, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has long inspired doubt among establishment Republicans about her electability.
But in Perry, some establishment figures see a compelling, conservative candidate who fits the mold slightly better than Romney. “People are for [Romney] in the same way they were for Bob Dole," Georgia strategist Tom Perdue told the Post. “They’re for him, but they’re looking far over their shoulder, hoping somebody else is going to step up.”
It may be premature to call Perry the anti-Romney establishment pick, but that's the narrative his campaign may use.
Henry Barbour, nephew of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who earlier this year decided against a presidential run, said he'd endorse Perry if he ran. “I’ve talked to a number of folks who were going to support Haley had he run, and a good percentage of them are very favorable to a Perry candidacy," Barbour told the Post, adding, "He’s got a great record in Texas, we align with him philosophically and he can win. It’s that simple."
Mike Dennehy, a New Hampshire operative, echoed that sentiment. “It’s a huge opening for Rick Perry — huge, huge, huge,” he said. “If he announces and really announces with a bang, he could gobble up a solid third of the Republican Party establishment in New Hampshire and, I do believe, nationally.”
As for that slow trickle of will-he-or-won't-he news, Perry met Tuesday in Austin with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to discuss the economy and international relations. Though Musharraf reportedly requested the meeting, such a sit-down certainly wouldn't hurt a candidate looking to beef up his foreign policy bona fides.
- Rampant speculation followed U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's surprise announcement on Tuesday that he won't seek re-election to Congress. Paul said the decision would allow him to focus on his bid for the presidency, and that it had nothing to do with the redistricting map state lawmakers passed this session that would have made it harder for him to win re-election. As for who might succeed Paul, state Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, quickly issued a statement Tuesday expressing interest in the seat. Nick Lampson, a Beaumont Democrat who has previously served in the U.S. House, told the Houston Chronicle that he was interested, too. Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina said she wouldn't likely run to replace Paul, whom she considers a mentor, especially now that the new congressional maps have drawn her into a different district.
- Rep. Larry Taylor wasn't the only state representative to announce Tuesday that he's coveting a seat in Congress: State Sen. Mike Jackson, R-LaPorte, told the Austin American-Statesman that he's eying a run for Harris County's newly drawn Congressional District 36. "It’s right in my backyard," Jackson said. "We’re looking at it pretty strong."
- Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general who's now running for U.S. Senate, has picked up another endorsement — that of George P. Bush, the nephew of George W. Bush, who called Cruz "the future of the Republican Party" and compared him to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising star in the GOP, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Bush's nod adds to Cruz's sizable list of endorsements, which he has received from conservative groups like FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth, whose support Cruz could wield against the race's presumed front-runner, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who's set to announce his candidacy next week.
- The state of the economy has set off a debate in Texas over whom and what to credit for the state's relative success during the downturn, but here's a stat that Gov. Rick Perry and others who tout the state's conservative spending principles might not like: Texas' debt appears to be growing at a faster rate than the federal debt, says the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“The general feeling is that Superman is in the race, including the likely entry of Rick Perry, and that any one of our governors or former governors would be an excellent candidate and could be elected president.” — Fred Malek, a major Republican donor, to The Washington Post
- Perry's Taxpayer-Funded Home Could Pose Political Hazard, RealClearPolitics
- S.A. lawmaker blasts peer over immigrant rant, San Antonio Express-News
- To Tackle Drought, Can Lawmakers Do More Than Pray for Rain?, The Texas Tribune