Political Class Watches Perry During Texas Special Session

By: - June 2, 2011 12:00 am

Rick Perry of Texas, the head of the Republican Governors Association and the longest-serving governor in the nation, raised eyebrows last week when he floated the possibility of running for president. ” I’m gonna think about it ,” Perry said, drawing immediate attention as a big name potentially entering an unsettled GOP field.

Perry hasn’t said much more about his presidential ambitions since last week, but a special session of the Texas Legislature could allow him to make his intentions clearer. The special session, which began on Tuesday (May 31), is mainly about finalizing deep cuts to the state’s K-12 education budget, but Perry has the luxury of adding items to the agenda as he sees fit. He has already added a Medicaid overhaul  something that, if carried out to his liking, could become a selling point during a presidential run later.

The agenda so far “leads me to believe that he is thinking seriously about a presidential bid,” Mark P. Jones, a Rice University political science professor, tells The Wall Street Journal .  But if the list of agenda items grows considerably and more controversial or time-consuming items are added to the session, Jones says, “that would suggest his interest in the presidency is perhaps waning.”

Perry could be in a strong position if he enters the 2012 race. He is well-known among Republican insiders as a big-state governor who has now been in office for more than a decade, having replaced George W. Bush when Bush was elected president in 2000. Perry has harnessed both mainstream Republican and Tea Party support and has regularly set himself up as a critic of President Obama on everything from the environment to public education.

Still unclear, however, is what a protracted fight over the current state budget would mean for Perry’s political ambitions. As Stateline reported in May , Texas faces serious budget difficulties that could set up courtroom battles for years to come.

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