Texas Gov. Rick Perry is exploring a run for president in a behind-the-scenes effort to set up a shadow campaign that stretches from Austin to New Hampshire to Miami.
Perry’s potential bid is more of a whisper campaign than a presidential campaign at the moment, but he’s aggressively courting fundraisers and political consultants — even if they’re allied with other candidates.
“We’re talking to as many people as possible,” said Dave Carney, his top political strategist who’s based in New Hampshire. “All these discussions are being had — logistics of how we raise and spend money. We’re talking to people who know the state.”
The non-campaign campaign has been so keen to exploit opportunities that last week, after Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Haridopolos withdrew from the race, Perry’s people started calling the sitting Florida Senate president’s donors and campaign hands to gauge their level of interest in supporting a Perry presidential bid.
“I’m definitely with Perry if he decides to run,” said one big-dollar Haridopolos donor, who didn’t want to be identified in case Perry decides not to run.
“Rick Perry is exciting and extremely capable,” the donor said. “You can’t say that about anyone else in the race right now.”
Sally Bradshaw, a longtime political hand known for her close ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush, was originally working for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour before he opted not to run.
Bradshaw had worked for Mitt Romney in 2008, and says she has been approached by Perry.
“I have spoken with him, but have spoken with other candidates as well and made no decisions yet,” she said in an email to The Miami Herald.
This week, Perry is meeting with delegations from Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas and has recently traveled to California and Aspen, Colo., in well-publicized visits that are all preludes to a nationwide campaign.
Perry has already fired up rank-and-file Republicans, according to a new survey from American Research Group, which found that he leads the pack of any Republican contender for president by pulling 16 percent.
That’s essentially a statistical tie with Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who each pull in 15 percent of the vote.
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