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How ready is Rick Perry to run for president?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a presidential-election infrastructure ready to go, say insiders. His appeal to Christian conservatives and the business community position him as a strong, if late, challenger.

By Staff writer / August 10, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry gives a closing address at The Response, a day of public prayer and fasting at Houston's Reliant Stadium that drew roughly 30,000 people, on Aug. 6. Perry attended the daylong prayer rally despite criticism that the event inappropriately mixes religion and politics.

Erika Rich / The Daily Texan / AP

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Is Rick Perry ready?

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The Texas governor has already made clear, via leaks from aides to the media, that he will effectively announce his intention to run for president Saturday. First, Gov. Rick Perry is appearing before a conservative bloggers’ convention in South Carolina, then he immediately flies to New Hampshire for an event in a GOP activist’s home. The next day he comes to Iowa, completing the trifecta of earliest-nominating states.

But there’s more to running for president than throwing your (10-gallon) hat in the ring. There’s staff to assemble and donors to contact. Governor Perry has made serious headway on those fronts, and the response has been positive, Republican insiders say. And even if he’s a bit behind the already-declared candidates in fund-raising and in setting up field operations in the early states, they expect Perry will catch up.

“It sounds like [Perry’s advisers] have done a lot of ground work, such that they can turn a switch on,” says Chip Felkel, a Republican strategist based in Greenville, S.C. "I don’t think they’d make the announcement if they hadn’t.”

Furthermore, he says, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is an unusually weak front-runner for a party that usually goes into an election cycle with a fair idea of who will win the nomination. And many GOP primary voters remain undecided or willing to change horses. Ditto party activists.

“There are still a lot of operatives out there who are not wholly committed anywhere,” says Mr. Felkel. “I think Perry will appeal to those people.”

Part of Perry’s strength is that he combines long executive experience with a strong job-creation record as governor of a big state – something none of the declared candidates have. The charismatic Perry also appeals to tea party activists and to religious conservatives, who could watch his open expressions of faith at his big Houston prayer rally last weekend and feel at home. Even if moderates were left uneasy by the Houston event, the party’s energy is in its conservative wing.

Perry risks insulting Iowa Republicans by deflecting attention away from Saturday’s straw poll in Ames – the first big test of much of the Republican field, which is being rendered less relevant by Perry’s decision not to enter the race in time to compete there. But canceling his long-planned appearance before the bloggers would have hurt him more with an important audience, says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

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