Opinion Brief

Rick Perry's 2012 announcement: Perfect timing?

The Texas governor will reportedly make it clear this weekend that he's running for president — just as his 2012 rivals line up for a big Iowa straw poll

This weekend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) will end months of speculation and announce his intention to run for president, Politico reports. The expected announcement, at a conservative conference in South Carolina, coincides with Iowa's Ames Straw Poll, a state GOP fundraising event watched closely for clues as to which candidate will win Iowa's key first-in-the-nation presidential caucus early next year. After his speech, Perry will reportedly fly to New Hampshire, another critical primary state, for a fundraiser, and then Iowa the next week. Has Perry rewritten the rules for winning a presidential primary? Here, four theories on the timing of his announcement:

1. Perry's timing is brilliant
Upstaging the winner of the Ames Straw Poll "strikes me as a pretty masterful piece of political gamesmanship," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. With Mitt Romney opting out, this year's straw poll was already "struggling to command attention," says Erica Grieder in The Economist. Perry has "now effectively punked it," and turned his virtual inability to win the poll — "he isn't even on the ballot" — into an asset. The straw poll winner will now share the day's headlines with Perry. That's a "characteristically clever" move from a wily politician.

2. But it carries some big risks, too
"The timing is clever," says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. But competing with the Ames poll also makes for "a riskier choice" — Iowans tend to be "temperamental when it comes to their state's status in the primary process," and they might resent Perry "trying to horn in on 'their' day."

3. Perry needs to do well in the straw poll for this to work
Announcing his presidential plans right before the Ames contest "is not only strategic, but a direct nod to volunteers who have been beating the Iowa ground on his behalf," says Lynda Waddington at The Washington Independent. Perry's not officially in the straw poll, but he's counting on his Iowa supporters to give him a strong showing through a write-in campaign. His stepping into the race will "overshadow whomever the vote tally winner might be" — but perhaps only if Perry finishes in Ames' top three.

4. Don't be so sure Perry's even announcing
It's still possible that this is "a repeat of the [Haley] Barbour/[Mitch] Daniels about-to-jump-in head-fake," says David Weigel at Slate. In fact, some of Perry's closest advisers say the governor is still on the fence about joining the 2012 race, says Jon Ward at The Huffington Post. Though nearly all signs point to an imminent Perry candidacy, perhaps we shouldn't count him in quite yet.

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