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Waiting for the Texas Chief

Waiting for the Texas Chief

By Ruben Navarrette - June 15, 2011

SAN DIEGO -- Even as seven GOP presidential hopefuls gathered for a debate in New Hampshire, the eyes of many Republicans were upon Texas.

Largely disenchanted with the current crop of candidates, and doubtful that any one of them could lay a glove on Barack Obama in the general election, Republican voters aren't shy about telling reporters that they want to take more applications.

Not even front-runner Mitt Romney is satisfying. While he did fine in the debate, and while he came in at the top of a new Gallup poll with 24 percent of Republicans saying that he's the one they're most likely to support for the nomination, the former Massachusetts governor still lags in the same poll's measure of voter "intensity." Put simply, he doesn't get voters as excited as do long-shot candidates Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain.

This disillusionment in GOP ranks has created a gigantic vacuum. And so it is little wonder that some Republicans say they'd like to go back to the drawing board and build a hybrid candidate, with a dash of this quality from one person and a sprinkle of that attribute from another.

Others insist there is no need to go to all that trouble, that there is already a prototype out there who has executive experience, the tea-party stamp of approval, a record of creating a friendly business climate, and even something we don't see much of from Republicans these days -- an appeal to Hispanics. They want to see the governor of the nation's second most populous state toss his Stetson into the ring.

Sources close to Rick Perry tell CBS News that the Texas governor is "serious" about launching a campaign for president. He is talking to financial backers, and recently welcomed former campaign manager Rob Johnson and top political consultant Dave Carney back to Austin. Until recently, both had been working for Newt Gingrich, and their abrupt departure suggests that they know something about Perry's plans that we don't.

If Perry were indeed to run, no one would be more surprised than many of Perry's fellow Texans. I lived in Dallas for five years and I still have many friends in the Lone Star State -- both Republicans and Democrats. Most of them don't think Perry will run. It's the same feedback I got a few weeks ago during a trip to San Antonio, when no one I spoke to put any stock in the idea and everyone treated it as a rumor -- albeit a juicy one.

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ruben@rubennavarrette.com

Copyright 2011, Washington Post Writers Group

Ruben Navarrette

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