AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday waved off any interest in the nation’s No. 2 post as he sharpened his focus on a potential run for the presidency in 2012.Senior Republican fundraisers gathered in Austin on Tuesday to advise Perry on fundraising strategy needed to fuel a winning campaign. Perry, who would be considered a late starter if he runs, said he wants to be sure that enough resources are available so “you don’t run out there and embarrass yourself” or those supporting his candidacy. Sounding more and more like a presidential contender, Perry, the state’s longest-serving governor, recalled remarks by the first Texan to serve as vice president when asked whether he would consider the No. 2 spot on the ballot. “John Nance Garner had a pretty good handle on that,” Perry told reporters. Garner, who served as vice president under President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1941, has been repeatedly quoted as describing the vice presidency as “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” Political lore has it that the rough-hewn Texan, nicknamed “Cactus Jack,” actually used an earthier expression to describe his contempt for the office. Perry suggested that he would prefer to remain governor of the nation’s second-largest state than serve as vice president. “You kind of go, vice president, governor of Texas,” he said, using his hands to demonstrate weighing the options. Spousal advice Perry also offered new details on the role that Texas first lady Anita Perry is playing in his presidential decision-making, describing her as one of the leaders among those urging him to consider the race. He said the first lady told him that it “may be time to get out of your comfort zone” as Texas governor to tackle the nation’s problems. Rick Perry and Anita Thigpen met at a piano recital during their elementary school years in West Texas, according to the governor’s online biography. They were married in 1982 and have two grown children. The governor said Anita Perry, a former nurse and the daughter of a physician the governor described as “an old country doctor,” is particularly concerned about the nation’s healthcare problems. Perry has been an outspoken critic of the federal healthcare law, calling it “Obama-care” and saying it would cost Texas nearly $27 billion over the next decade. Major polling organizations have begun including Perry in their presidential handicaps, with findings that analysts believe may encourage Perry to enter the Republican field. A just-released NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll has Perry drawing 11 percent of national primary voters. That puts him in third place behind Mitt Romney, leading with 30 percent support, and Michele Bachmann, with 16 percent support. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, placed fourth, with 9 percent support. A new Gallup Poll concluded that Perry and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani have “strongly positive images” among Republicans nationwide and would enter the GOP nomination race as “credible players” if they decide to run. Perry, who would be making his first national bid, is recognized by 55 percent of Republicans while Giuliani, who sought the presidency in 2008, is recognized by 86 percent, the survey said. After months of dismissing any interest in the race, Perry has been seriously evaluating a potential candidacy since the Legislature adjourned several weeks ago. Perry has also called political leaders in key states and said he has received an “overwhelming response” from those urging him to enter the race. “Sixty days ago, this was not on my radar screen,” he said. California-bound Perry is scheduled to be in California today and part of Thursday to meet with businessmen to promote Texas’ business-friendly economy, spokesman Mark Miner said. He will then travel to Aspen, Colo., for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, which he leads. Miner said the closed fundraising discussions included donors from Texas and other states and were part of the “decision-making process” that will determine whether Perry enters the race. The spokesman said he expects Perry to decide “in the next several weeks.” Staff writer Aman Batheja contributed to this article.
Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram’s Austin bureau chief. 512-476-4294