- Associated Press - Sunday, June 12, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — Stuck at home managing a special session of the Texas Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry couldn’t capitalize on Newt Gingrich’s campaign implosion with a quick move into the GOP presidential field even if he wanted.

It doesn’t matter, said several veteran fundraisers who helped former President George W. Bush break records as he vaulted from Texas to the White House.

They say there’s still plenty of time for a candidate to get in the race even if he hasn’t hired a staff, raised a dollar or made an official campaign trip to Iowa or New Hampshire. In fact, they argue, it could become an advantage for Mr. Perry, a conservative who has never lost an election.

“Getting in early gives you more time to spend money, more time to make mistakes, you don’t understand the field, who you’re running against,” said Anne Dunsmore, a fundraiser who has worked for Mr. Bush, Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Republican candidates.

Mr. Perry stirred speculation two weeks ago with an off-the-cuff remark - “I’m going to think about it” - and the buzz has only grown as two of Mr. Perry’s most trusted advisers fled from Mr. Gingrich’s presidential campaign in a wave of resignations.

Rob Johnson, who helped Mr. Perry mount a come-from-behind victory to beat Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison by more than 20 percentage points in the GOP governor’s primary, left Mr. Perry’s office earlier this year to be Mr. Gingrich’s campaign manager. Longtime political adviser Dave Carney had remained working for the governor while also serving on Mr. Gingrich’s staff.

It had always seemed unlikely that Mr. Perry would launch any campaign without the two at his side.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Friday that Mr. Perry continued to think about getting in the race but remained focused on the Legislature and the Gingrich defections have no impact on his decision. Mr. Miner said Mr. Perry wasn’t available for comment, and that he did not know if Mr. Johnson would immediately return to the governor’s staff. Messages left with both were not returned Friday.

The special session that started last month, forced by a Democratic filibuster over funding for public education, could keep Mr. Perry cooped up at the Texas Capitol through June 29.

But Sig Rogich, one of Mr. Bush’s “Rangers” who collected more than $200,000 for his campaigns, argued that Mr. Perry’s work in Austin shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage if Mr. Perry decided to get in the race.

“Maybe today - more than I’ve seen in recent memory - coming from the back of the pack might be a real advantage,” Mr. Rogich said.

Mr. Perry has $2.7 million left in his state campaign account from his 2010 re-election, according to his most recent campaign finance report. He won’t be able to use that money for a presidential bid, since federal law prohibits state money from being transferred to a federal account. But the figure shows that Mr. Perry is an adept fundraiser. It’s a skill he’s honed through years of campaigning for statewide office in Texas and, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, one he’s polished nationally.

“He comes from the best fundraising state, at least for Republicans, in the United States. And that’s coming from a Romney supporter,” said Wayne Berman, a lobbyist in Washington, who also helped Mr. Bush break fundraising records. “It’s enough to start.”



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