Will he or won’t he?
The Texas political class has been abuzz this week about more than just Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis’s abortion bill filibuster-heard-round-the-nation.
The other occupying parlor game: Whether three-term Republican Gov. Rick Perry intends to seek an unprecedented fourth full term.
CNN and other news organizations reported Tuesday afternoon that Perry, a failed 2012 GOP presidential candidate, plans an announcement Monday about his “exciting future plans.”
CNN was first to report that Perry, governor since 2000 when George W. Bush resigned to become president, invited via email friends and supporters to San Antonio Monday for the announcement.
The conventional wisdom had been that Perry, who damaged his brand with his highly anticipated but ultimately disastrous foray into presidential politics, would not seek to extend his record as the nation’s longest-serving governor.
The ground, however, has shifted for Perry over the past few months. Polls show that his standing among Texas voters — and in particular, the GOP base — has improved. And Davis’ successful filibuster of a Perry-supported restrictive abortion bill hasn’t just animated Democrats.
“Events of the past week have energized activists in both parties,” says Harold Cook, former executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.
But Cook is among Texas politicos who don’t think Perry plans another run for governor.
“There are no signs of a big staff-up, no lining up office space, and I don’t believe that he has spent the last six months secretly running for governor,” Cook says.
That being said, Cook and others note that if Perry gets perturbed about something he has no compunction about changing his mind.
Let’s not forget, they say, the 2010 election when then-GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison seemed a bit too eager to usher Perry out of the governor’s office. Perry ended up soundly defeating her in a primary.
“I think the odds of Rick Perry running for re-election are far greater now than they were two weeks ago,” says Jason Stanford, a Texas Democratic political consultant. “He would love to have this fight about abortion, and he doesn’t want to look like a girl scared him away.”
“Not that he’s particularly sexist, but he has been in charge for so long, he doesn’t want to look like he got shoved off the stage,” Stanford says.
Democrats like Stanford are touting Davis and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates next year.
Matt Mackowiak, a Republican political consultant based in Austin and Washington, says the nationally watched fight over the Texas abortion bill has gotten Perry’s competitive “juices going.”
“Up until a week ago, I thought he wouldn’t run for re-election,” Mackowiak said. “Now, it’s less predictable.”
Perry no doubt is also weighing how he can best position himself for 2016, when most who know and have followed him say he is likely to try again for the GOP presidential nomination.
“Perry wants one more shot, one more title shot,” Mackowiak says. “Generally, if you run once, you run again. I think he wants to redeem himself, and redeem how people view the Texas story.”
We’ll know Monday whether Perry wants to tell that story in 2016 as the longest-serving governor in the nation’s biggest red state, or not.