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Perry not exploring presidential campaign, assembling one

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Commentary: In case you haven’t noticed, Gov. Rick Perry is running for president.

No, I didn’t say exploring a run for President, I said running.

The real exploration started two years ago when Perry surprised just about everyone and announced he was going to run for re-election as governor. Up to that point, there had been a gentleman’s agreement that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would delay running for governor in 2004 and that Perry would stand down in 2008.

Although his friends reported Perry authentically believed it would be difficult for a Texan to be elected in the post-George Bush era, not running for governor would take him completely out of the national conversation.

Some took Perry’s decision to seek the chairmanship of the Republican Governor’s Association this year as a sign he wasn’t seeking the presidency, but they were wrong.

The chairmanship projected the governor into the national conversation. He crisscrossed the country speaking to Republican leaders and raising record amounts for the organization. A fringe benefit was raising the comfort level of a critical constituency for a presidential candidate.

This last legislative session was engineered for a presidential run. No taxes, smaller budget and a strong socially conservative agenda beefed up an already stout resume.

The governor knew the only way to get past the GOP’s anti-Bush hangover was to engineer being drafted by anxious Republicans looking at a weak field of alternatives unlikely to beat President Obama.

If he hasn’t been discouraged from running by now, the deal is done. Gov. Perry is no longer exploring a campaign for the presidency, he is assembling one.

Although no contracts have been signed or operatives hired, surrogate operations are popping up in all the key states. The day he announces, Perry will have operations running full tilt in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The calculation is that the Governor may place second in Iowa and New Hampshire, but should win decisively in South Carolina. From there, it is on to Super Tuesday and the Republican nomination.

Texas politics and government are rarely what they seem. Join Quorum Report publisher Harvey Kronberg every Monday as he shares the stories behind the stories in On the Agenda. Kronberg has covered the Capitol for more than 20 years, and he knows where to find the scoop.
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