As he weighs whether to jump in to the 2012 Republican presidential race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been dialing GOP establishment bigwigs across the country. In phone calls that sometimes stretch more than a half-hour, Perry asks the same questions:
Is the door open for a new candidate? And how wide is it open?
The answers: most definitely, and plenty wide.
A vast reservoir of the Republican Party establishment — including elected officials, donors, strategists and activists whose support fuels presidential campaigns — remains untapped, say 19 major donors, strategists and party officials in 13 states interviewed this week.
Many of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s supporters, who have largely stayed on the fence since he decided against running, are preparing to back Perry, said Henry Barbour, the governor’s nephew and a member of the RNC.
“I hope he does run,” said Henry Barbour, who said he would endorse Perry. “I’ve talked to a number of folks who were going to support Haley had he run, and a good percentage of them are very favorable to a Perry candidacy. .?.?. He’s got a great record in Texas, we align with him philosophically and he can win. It’s that simple.”