In the next few days, advisers to Texas Gov. Rick Perry are set to present him with the results of extensive research into the question of whether Perry could raise enough money and put together an organization quickly enough to enter the Republican presidential race as a top-tier contender.
Perry's prospects have been buoyed by two recent polls. A new Fox News national survey of Republicans shows Perry in second place, behind frontrunner Mitt Romney and ahead of announced candidates Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul, as well as potential candidates Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani. In that survey, Romney is the first choice of 18 percent of Republicans, with Perry second at 13 percent. In another poll, conducted by Marist, Perry is tied with Giuliani for second nationally, behind Romney.
Perry's advisers know poll results can be transitory. Of greater concern now are questions about money and organization. Perry does not want to enter a race in which he has to spend nearly all of his time fundraising, rather than campaigning. He knows that voters in early states demand face-to-face contact, and he knows he would not be able to do enough retail campaigning if he were required to continually criss-cross the country asking for money.
Aides say Perry has gotten a very positive reception from Republican donors and bundlers; one adviser says the response has been "incredibly enthusiastic, exuberant." But the adviser adds that "trying to quantify that is a daunting task" -- veteran campaigners know that pledges and commitments do not equal cash in hand, and enthusiasm for a candidacy before it is announced could wane if things don't go well.
Still, Perry is facing a lot of positive signs as he mulls the decision on whether to run. His innermost thoughts on the issue, however, remain unknown to all but those closest to him. The job of the advisers who surveyed the political and fundraising scene is to give Perry a picture of how a campaign would work. After that, it's up to Perry himself. "Once all the logistical questions are addressed, he has to use his own process on whether he wants to put himself and his family through this," says one adviser.
Meanwhile, potential Perry supporters are growing anxious for a decision. "He has a clear path to be very successful in the early states," says a veteran politico in South Carolina. When asked whether he believes Perry will run, the politico said, "I don't know why he wouldn't." Yet in the next breath, the political veteran acknowledged that not everyone wants to be president so badly that they will endure the rigors of today's campaigns and life in the White House. "Of course, some people might not want to be president," the politico says. "Do you want to be guarded for the rest of your life? Do you never want to be able to fish alone again?" That's the decision that Rick Perry has to make.