The Washington Times - July 20, 2011, 05:31PM

Gov. Rick Perry hosted a group of top national Republican fundraiser Tuesday in Austin, leaving at least one of the 20 or so big-money bundlers in attendance convinced that he’s going to jump into the presidential race.

“If I had to bet my own money on it, I sure would bet that this man is coming into it and coming into it big time and serious,” a top Republican fundraisers who attended the dinner told The Washington Times. “They gave you every indication, wink and nod that they are going to go.”

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Mark Miner, the governor’s spokesperson, told The Times that the meeting was one of many that are happening as the governor contemplates a potential run.

“It’s part of the decision-making process,” he said.

Mr. Perry has flirted with a White House run for months, and political insiders predict he’s probing to see whether he can raise the money needed to compete in the primary season and in a general election against President Obama, who recently raised $86 million for his 2012 campaign.

In the meantime, Perry’s stock has risen among many potential GOP primary voters, despite the fact that other candidates in the Republican field have been campaigning for weeks, if not months. A recent realclearpolittics.com average of polls shows the Texas governor running in third place behind Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Republican insiders say the record of three-term governor, in many ways, seems tailor-made for the current mood of the Republican party. He’s watched over Texas while it has added more than a million jobs - thanks in large part to the state’s booming energy industry. He’s also made a habit of speaking extensively on the 10th Amendment and the limitations it places on the powers of the federal government over the states, stances that are likely to sit well with tea partyers.

Some of the fundraisers met with Perry’s senior team and joined others at a cocktail reception and dinner, where Perry, the longest serving governor in the Texas history, spoke to the group and fielded a few questions.

“Everybody came away somewhere between enthusiastic and fired up,” the fundraiser said. “He presents terribly well, is very good on his feet and has a message that resonates with Republicans from a standpoint of economic policy, which is what we talked about - we didn’t get into social issues to any degree at all.”

Asked whether he plans on putting his financial network behind Perry, the fundraiser said, that “of the field, he is the one who impresses me the most of having the force of personality to go toe-to-toe, and successfully so, against President Obama.”