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Rick Perry Presidential Push Quietly Gains Steam

By Erin McPike and Scott Conroy - May 17, 2011

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Indeed, "Perry for president" buzz has tended to pop and fizz over time. At the groundbreaking of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Nov. 16, 2010, much of the talk among longtime Bush veterans centered on these three words: "Perry is in." Six months later, not much has happened.

Perry's presidential prospects may ultimately be contingent on the decision made by the only GOP White House hopeful who can boast a resume and home state that is large enough to mess with Texas: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Perry shares Palin's dexterity with the simple, tough-talking language that tends to fire up the tea party faithful and is similarly adept at connecting on a human level that comes across as decidedly anti-politician, despite his more than a decade in the governor's mansion.

"Later brother, we're stepping out," was how Perry ended an October interview with RCP, in which he spent nearly as much time opining about the Austin City Limits music festival and his impending hunting trip as he did his own gubernatorial campaign.

Palin endorsed Perry in his contentious primary against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison early last year, and they are both larger-than-life figures to the tea party rank and file. In other words, the race might not be big enough to hold both a Texas cowboy and a certain Mama Grizzly from the 49th state.

As Palin relies on her unrivaled star power and intensity of support to afford her the luxury of waiting to see how the field develops, Perry cannot remain idle quite as long, particularly in putting himself in a position to begin raising money in a timely enough fashion to run a national primary campaign that starts early in the new year.

Perry stopped by the Republican National Committee's state chairmen's meeting in Dallas on Tuesday and spoke about one of his favorite topics: federalism and the 10th Amendment. He said that the eventual Republican presidential nominee would have to have a firm understanding of the role of states' rights.

Perry remains well known to the Republican base these days. In December 2009, his visage adorned the cover of the New York Times Magazine, and he showed last year by beating back Hutchison -- who enjoyed the backing of Bush administration allies, as well as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- that the Rick Perry brand remains formidable.

He was a headliner at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans last April, and it was announced last week that he'll be reprising that appearance at this year's conference in June.

The event is a cattle call for 2012 GOP hopefuls, with Gingrich, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and businessman Herman Cain all confirmed to speak, along with Perry.

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Erin McPike and Scott Conroy are national political reporters for RealClearPolitics. Erin can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Scott can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com

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