WASHINGTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "sit back and wait" strategy to be asked to run for president seems to be paying off as he prepares to give the keynote speech Tuesday at a GOP dinner in New York — where he was a last-minute sub for flamed-out aspirant Donald Trump — and welcomes back some of his top aides, who abandoned Newt Gingrich's campaign this week.
"As an observer of the Texas political scene and watching what he's doing, you would have to say he's running," said Pat Oxford, the chairman of the Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani law firm. Looking at the field so far, Oxford said, "There's no Republican candidate who has caught any kind of supportive breeze."
Perry's invitation to be the marquee speaker at the high-profile New York Republican County Committee's Annual Lincoln Dinner fundraiser in the nation's biggest media market underscores the interest in the Texas governor among Republican conservatives.
"When Perry was announced, there was a lot more interest," Marcus Cederqvist, the executive director of the New York Republican County Committee, said as ticket sales soared at Trump's replacement. "People were very excited about it."
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"Governor Perry is the perfect example that we in New York should be looking to," committee Chairman Daniel Isaacs said in a statement. "At a time when New York ranks at or near the bottom among states in every important metric, Texas is leading the way. By focusing on keeping taxes low and fostering a fair legal and regulatory environment, Governor Perry has helped Texas attract business and residents at a time when New York has been hemorrhaging both."
Isaacs said in an interview that he's organized a "meet and greet' lunch Tuesday for Perry with 30 of Manhattan's most powerful financiers and power brokers, after which the Texas governor will make several media appearances.
As for Perry's thoughts on running for the nation's highest office, he was widely quoted last month as saying, "I'm going to think about it." That process took on new energy with Thursday's en masse departure of former House Speaker Gingrich's top campaign workers, including longtime Perry advisers David Carney and Rob Johnson.
"Nothing's changed," Perry spokesman Mark Miner said. "Of course he's going to think about it. Right now, he's focused on the legislative session."
Perry called a special legislative session that runs through the end of June.
In an email, Carney told McClatchy that the Gingrich exodus "has no bearing on the thinking of the governor."
But plenty of Texans think it has to push him closer to running.
"All the signs point to it," said Austin political consultant Bill Miller, who advises members of both parties. "It sure adds up to a guy who's going to be a candidate."
In addition to the New York trip and Perry's consultants being "back in the fold," as Miller put it, the governor's unexpected call for a day of "prayer and fasting" in August fueled speculation of a White House run.
"He'd certainly be a good candidate," said Dee Kelly, a Fort Worth powerbroker and lawyer. "If they don't get one candidate to split the conservative vote, he can point to his track record creating jobs in Texas. In this economy right now, he's got credentials."
Texas has led the nation in job creation over the last 10 years, according to federal data. Most recently, it created 254,000 jobs from February 2010 to February 2011, followed by California with 194,000.
University of Virginia presidential expert Larry Sabato thinks that despite all the signals coming from Perry, "he's having fun with it."
"I'd be surprised if he runs," Sabato said. "He's to the right of the country. I don't think there's any doubt about that."
And the country isn't willing, Sabato said, to go with another Texan so soon after George W. Bush, especially one who's "right of Bush" and who suggested that the Lone Star State might want to secede from the Union.
"Being from Texas hurts anyone running," Sabato said, "but Rick Perry in particular."
For his part, Oxford is keeping his powder dry while he waits to hear whether a New Yorker might make another presidential run: his law partner, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
In 2008, Perry, notably, supported Giuliani for president.
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