Organizers of the Western Conservative Summit have put Perry on a straw poll ballot along with other major announced and unannounced candidates. Perry is one of two keynote speakers at the event. White House Republican hopeful Rick Santorum, who recently criticized Perry for saying gay marriage policies should be decided by states, is the other one. GOP presidential contender Herman Cain is also scheduled to make an appearance in Denver.
“With all the signals from Gov. Perry that there may be an announcement in August, we thought he belonged in the poll,” said John Andrews, chief organizer of the event. “The sense here in Colorado among political observers is that Perry is almost in.”
More than 900 people who paid to attend the event will get to cast votes in the straw poll, with the results expected to be announced Sunday. All the announced major candidates will appear on the ballot, as will Perry and other possible candidates such as Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin and John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
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Perry is scheduled to sign copies of his Washington-bashing book, Fed Up!, before addressing the summit Friday night. Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a Fort Worth native, is scheduled to introduce Perry before he speaks.
While Iowa is expected, per tradition, to hold the first party caucuses in the nation in January, Colorado is considered a key swing state that could help decide the outcome of the November general election.
Republican strategist Karl Rove, in a recent speech in the Centennial State, put it this way: “As goes Colorado, so goes the nation."
The second annual Western Conservative Summit is sponsored by the Centennial Institute, a public policy think tank affiliated with Colorado Christian University. Other speakers at event include commentators Juan Williams, Dick Morris, Tucker Carlson, comedian Brad Stine and columnist Cal Thomas.
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