AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry insists that his sole political ambition is to serve the people of Texas for another four years, but his triumph over U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the March 2 Republican primary is propelling his name onto the list of potential Republican contenders in the 2012 presidential race.
"The reporting on the Texas primary has made it pretty clear that his stock has risen nationally as a result," said David Kochel, a Republican political consultant in Iowa, a perennial starting point for presidential races. "We've heard his name a lot more, although we haven't seen anything on the ground."
The Iowa Republican Party recently invited Perry to the state — along with other prominent GOP politicians — to raise money to help Republicans oust Democratic Gov. Chet Culver, Jim Anderson, the party's executive director, told the Star-Telegram.
A trip to Iowa, which conducts the nation's earliest presidential caucuses, might have further expanded Perry-for-president talk. But the governor declines, a Perry spokesman said.
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Perry, his aides and prominent supporters have repeatedly countered presidential speculation by stressing that his only political objective is to win re-election to an unprecedented third four-year term. "He has said flatly that he has no intention of running for president at all," spokesman Mark Miner said. "He's answered that very firmly."
"He has no interest in the presidency," added Fort Worth attorney Ralph Duggins, a member of Perry's finance team. Duggins says he believes the presidential talk is being stirred by Perry opponents "who want to distract voters" by raising the possibility that Perry would consider leaving office in the middle of his next term to launch a presidential bid.
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