- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rick Perry’s splashy entrance into the GOP presidential race was supposed to turn the contest into a showdown between the Texas governor and front-runner Mitt Romney.

Instead, the Texan’s up-and-down week on the stump may have opened the door for other last-minute contenders, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Republican consultant Karl Rove was one of several pundits, political reporters and GOP operatives who speculated Sunday that the field could expand.

Mr. Rove, who criticized Mr. Perry’s blunt style last week, said Sunday that he thinks Mrs. Palin is in.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Rove said the former Alaska governor’s upcoming slate of appearances “looks like that of a candidate, not a celebrity.”

“Her difficulty is if she doesn’t get in shortly after next week, then I think people are going to basically say, ‘She’s not in, she won’t be in and if she gets in, I’m not going to be for her.’ You can only tease so many times in the political process, and I think she’s getting to the end of that,” he said.

Political observers, including Mr. Rove, have speculated that Mrs. Palin could make an announcement about her candidacy on Sept. 3, when she is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a large tea party gathering in Iowa.

The event was moved recently from Waukee, Iowa, to a venue in Indianola, Iowa, to accommodate what is expected to be a larger crowd.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 62, predicted that one of the already declared candidates would rise to the top, but, if others jump in, “the more, the merrier.”

Asked specifically about whether Mr. Ryan might enter the race, Mr. Daniels, a friend of the Wisconsin Republican, said the seven-term congressman would “enrich the debate.”

“I’ve not spoken to him lately and I’ve not encouraged him. When asked about him as a candidate, I’ve said if Paul Ryan ran … he would be a very effective and a clear spokesman with a heart for people that I think our party needs. I think that now or in the future … this is an American who has a lot to offer and to whom I hope people will listen whether he is a candidate or not.”

Asked about Mr. Perry’s “almost treasonous” remarks about the quantitative easing policies of the Federal Reserve, Mr. Daniels, who was the top budget official for President George W. Bush, said the Texas governor “made a serious point in an unfortunate way.”

But the two-term Indiana governor said President Obama and his allies have been much more effective at vilifying Republicans than vice versa.

Other former Bush advisers also have second-guessed the Texas governor’s shoot-from-the-hip comments, but Mr. Rove, who lives in Texas, on Sunday defended Mr. Perry’s economic record.

“This state has got a diverse, robust economy, and people are voting with their feet by moving to Texas from all across the country,” Mr. Rove said.

Former Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., Tennessee Democrat, predicted that the Perry missteps — comments on global warming, creationism in public schools and the Fed remark — had opened the door for other GOP candidates.

“I happen to think this field is not done yet,” Mr. Ford said on “Meet the Press. “The way that Perry got into this race has created a path. … Romney is not as loved by the party as he’d like to be. Perry certainly suggests that he is not as serious. Does that open up for [former New York Mayor Rudolph W.] Giuliani or Christie? I think it does.”

Mr. Christie and Mr. Ryan each shot down reports — again — last week that they would run. But Mr. Rove, who heads the influential pro-Republican American Crossroads political action committee, said Sunday that both men have been contacted by supporters.

“My suspicion is that both of them are going to have to give at least some consideration to the kind of encouragement they’re getting,” Mr. Rove said.

Mrs. Palin and Mr. Giuliani have said they are considering last-minute entrances into the race.

The buzz around Mrs. Palin was stoked last week with the release by her political action committee of a slick, campaign-style video of the former Alaska governor working the enthusiastic crowds a few days earlier at the Iowa State Fair. The patriotic video closes with a sunset-lit shot of a roaring grizzly.