When Will Rick Perry Start Running for President?

The Wall Street Journal wrote yesterday afternoon that Rick Perry was ready to jump into running for president. The sourcing for the piece was incredibly unconvincing; I'm not sure how one "normally reliable Republican source" who is clearly not part of Perry's camp would know the Texas governor's intentions (and for what it is worth, Perry's official advisers have said a decision is still weeks away). But my major qualm lies with the timeline described for Perry's announcement.

The Journal claims Perry will announce his candidacy around August 6, when he has scheduled a national prayer meeting in Houston. That timing would be the worst possible, as Perry would have both the disadvantages of entering the field late while gaining none of the benefits of a last-minute candidacy.

If Perry truly does intend to run for the Republican nomination, he faces a dilemma on when exactly to begin his campaign. At the beginning of the year Perry truly appeared to have ruled out a presidential run, even freeing his senior advisers and funders to work for other candidates. He appears to have reassessed as potential heavy hitters such as Mike Huckabee or Haley Barbour began ruling out campaigns.

Since did not spend the first half of 2011 in presidential mode, Perry has fallen behind the other candidates in campaign building. Successful presidential campaigns don't just form overnight based off the brilliance and personality of the politician. They require a degree of fundraising and organization unlike any lower ticket race, with candidates devoting years of their lives to developing the necessary infrastructure (Mitt Romney has essentially been a full time candidate for the presidency for over six years now).

Perry has a few options on when his campaign could become official. The smartest move would likely be to drop everything and dive in next week. As Jamelle detailed earlier this week, the nomination cycle is currently in the invisible primary phase when candidates are competing to lock up the Republican elites to fund and staff their campaigns. Perry continues to drop behind in this game with each day he delays his decision. And by getting in sooner he would be able to participate in early debates that will serve as the main avenue for the candidates to introduce themselves to the voting public.

Perry's other route is to hold off mounting a campaign until significantly later in the primary. The Iowa Straw Poll on August 13 will be an early indicator of which candidates are legitimate contenders and which campaigns are running on fumes. It is not entirely inconceivable that Bachmann finishes first at the straw poll, with Ron Paul or Herman Cain placing ahead of Tim Pawlenty. Perry could then swoop in saying, "Look at all these jokesters who stand no chance in a general election. Anoint me as the conservative savior." It would still be challenging to quickly create an organized campaign before the early caucus and primary states, but he could hope to ride the wave of media attention to early victories, and bank on the shortened window of his candidacy preventing the national press from fully investigating his background.

But announcing his campaign during the first week of August as the Journal reported? That makes no sense. In that scenario Perry loses almost two months of fundraising and is immediately trumped in the news cycle after the announcement by a Republican debate in Iowa on August 11 and the straw poll two days later, events where he would have zero presence. Since Perry is known as a shrewd politician among Texas circles I'm going to guess that article got its facts wrong.

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