- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

EXETER, N.H. Still searching for a 2012 candidate, Republican activists from New Hampshire plan to visit Texas next week to encourage Gov. Rick Perry to run for president.

The New Hampshire delegation, to be led by former Republican National committeeman Sean Mahoney and former state GOP Executive Director Paul Young, also intends to stress the importance of the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

“Most of the folks who will be going down have seen what Gov. Perry stands for and his strong conservative track record,” Mr. Mahoney said Wednesday. “And I think there’s a large bloc of New Hampshire Republicans who feel like his stance on the issues are exactly what the country needs right now.”

The trip comes as a new Gallup Poll released Wednesday found Mr. Perry would instantly challenge ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for front-runner status in the Republican 2012 presidential sweepstakes should he enter the race.

The new poll shows that Mr. Romney would lead the Texas governor by just a 17 percent to 15 percent margin should Mr. Perry make the run. Without Mr. Perry in the race, Mr. Romney would hold a 9 percentage point lead over his closest challenger, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Two other undeclared candidates, ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, finish just behind Mr. Romney and Mr. Perry in the Gallup survey, with 12 percent and 11 percent support, respectively.

Mrs. Palin stoked fresh speculation that she may enter the race after the political website realclearpolitics.com reported Wednesday that she has agreed to speak at a tea party event in Iowa in early September, the site of the 2012 race’s first nominating caucuses.

Tea Party of America founder Ken Crow said the 2008 vice-presidential nominee will speak at his group’s Sept. 3 rally near Des Moines. Mrs. Palin has said she will decide on a presidential bid in late August or early September.

Mr. Perry’s aides have been laying the groundwork for a White House bid, and Mr. Perry has been talking to influential Republicans in early voting states. He is expected to jump in when he announces a decision in the coming weeks.

Recent public polling puts him near the top of the field, now led by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry has yet to travel to New Hampshire this year, but he phoned prominent Republican officials in New Hampshire and Iowa this month to gauge their interest in his candidacy. His top political strategist, Dave Carney, is based in New Hampshire.

Mr. Perry also is scheduled to headline a dinner fundraiser for a leading New Hampshire conservative organization in October.



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