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Texas’ Perry testing N.H., Iowa waters

Outreach to GOP operatives signals interest in White House bid

- Associated Press - Monday, July 11, 2011

EXETER, N.H. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry has telephoned influential Republicans in early-voting New Hampshire and Iowa in recent days as he weighs whether to enter the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

"He was looking for my thoughts in terms of what the presidential field looked like and what might happen if someone came in and shook things up a little bit," New Hampshire Senate President Peter Bragdon told the Associated Press on Monday after receiving a weekend voicemail message on his cell phone from Mr. Perry. "It certainly left me with the impression that he's doing his homework and giving it some serious consideration."

The conservative Texan also called several GOP leaders in Iowa, which will hold the first contest in next year's GOP presidential race. Among those contacted, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Mr. Perry left a message for her, but didn't indicate whether he planned to run.

"He looked forward to the opportunity to have a face-to-face and talk about great things that could happen in Iowa as well as the nation," Mrs. Reynolds said. "He just said he looked forward to seeing me soon."

Mr. Perry's efforts to reach out to Republican officeholders in both states show just how seriously he's considering a presidential run as polls suggest Republican primary voters in early-voting states and elsewhere are generally underwhelmed by the current slate of candidates.

The field is largely set, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — who lost the nomination to Sen. John McCain in 2008 ahead in most early surveys. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee, and Mr. Perry are the only two major question marks.

Mr. Perry, Texas' longest-serving governor, had spent months saying that he would not seek the nomination. He reversed course several weeks ago and has been openly considering a bid.

Last month, Perry aides began making inquiries in Iowa about the timing and rules of the state's leadoff nominating caucuses, as well as the Iowa GOP's presidential straw poll, scheduled for Aug. 13 in Ames. There also is an Iowa movement afoot to draft Mr. Perry to run. It has hired staffers to try to build support for Mr. Perry at the Ames popularity contest, which could shape the race.

A former Perry aide also is inquiring about available campaign staff, according to Greg Baker, an Iowa Republican consultant now working for a faith-based advocacy group in the state. Mr. Baker wouldn't identify the ex-aide who was reaching out but said: "He was just checking on a few names of people seeing how I felt about them, checking on different possible staff people, if he were to run."

Perry spokesman Mark Miner acknowledged that the governor was reaching out to people across the country, saying: "He's continuing to talk to folks as part of his process of making a decision."

New Hampshire conservative leader and former Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne said he spoke to Mr. Perry "for the better part of half an hour" on Saturday.

"I told him that I think this is a wide-open race. While there are some good candidates out there, I think folks are still looking. I have the impression that he's in the process of making a decision. Obviously, he's quite serious about it."

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