AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry appeared to reverse course today by publicly acknowledging for the first time that he is “thinking about” running for president.
Perry, who has repeatedly insisted that he no interest in the 2012 race, told reporters that his immediate focus is the 2011 legislative session, which ends Monday. But asked if he would think about a presidential run after the session, Perry responded:
About running for president, he was asked. “I’m going to think about it.” Perry said.
While that might sound clear enough, Perry spokesman Mark Miner insisted later that Perry still has no presidential ambitions and that nothing was new about the governor’s posture.
"He thinks about a lot of issues," Miner said in an email. "Nothing has changed. The Governor has no intention of running for President."
Talk of a possible Perry candidacy has gathered momentum recently after conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh declared on his nationwide radio program that Perry is the Republicans' best hope to bring life to an anemic presidential field.
Limbaugh said Perry has the potential to "light this up."
On Thursday, the Hispanic Republican Conference endorsed Perry for president, expressing hope that the plug would help persuade the Texas governor to enter the race.
Asked about the endorsement, Perry said:
"I don’t make a lot of anything dealing with that until we get past the Monday deadline for this legislative session. That's our focus. I appreciate everybody's interest but all of us know that the work at hand is the most important thing we have to do."
Even before Limbaugh's broadcast, Perry had been gaining increased notice in blogs and a diverse range of publications as Republicans and conservative independents size up potential candidates to run against Democratic President Barack Obama.
RealClearPolitics, an online journal, reported recently that Perry aides have been quietly making inquiries on Perry's behalf in advance of the 2012 presidential race. Other publications spotlighting Perry include The New York Times and the National Journal, which recently ran a cover profile on the Texas governor.
Perry has also boosted his national stature with appearances at major Republican events. Sales of his book, Fed Up, have further stoked attention, in addition to advancing Perry's conservative themes of limited government and state sovereignty.
The Republican field is still emerging. Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota announced his candidacy on Monday, following Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia into the race. Other potential contenders include Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Utah Gov. John Huntsman and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and real estate developer and TV celebrity Donald Trump have all bowed out.