An outside group urging Texas Gov. Rick Perry to jump into the Republican presidential primary has raised $400,000 in three weeks, emboldening organizers to ramp up fundraising and represent him in next month's Iowa straw poll -- even if he is still on the fence.
Bob Schuman, a senior strategist for Americans for Rick Perry, said Thursday that the group is expanding its fundraising operation outside of Texas to include Miami, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. The group can accept unlimited donations but, under federal law, can’t strategize with Perry himself.
The deadline has passed for Perry or any other potential presidential candidate to secure a base of operations at the sports arena in Ames that will host the straw poll, a traditional and potentially important test of their grassroots organization. Americans for Rick Perry is negotiating with the state party for a lower-profile location where it could round up Perry supporters on his behalf, Schuman said.
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Perry has given no indication that he will be announcing a decision on a White House bid before he hosts a national prayer meeting in Houston on August 6. That’s just one week before the straw poll, leaving him little time to launch a campaign.
“We’re going to see if we can turn people out for him and keep him in the hearts and minds of caucusgoers,’’ said Schuman, who worked on campaigns for Phil Gramm and Jack Kemp. “The race is still so fluid.’’
Schuman traveled to Ames one week ago to check out the site and meet with a number of party leaders, including the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. The executive director of Americans for Rick Perry, Craig Schoenfeld, was heading up Newt Gingrich's campaign in Iowa until he and several other staffers quit last month.
It’s possible that Perry could be included on the straw poll’s ballot even though the deadline has passed for him to reserve a campaign headquarters. The state party’s central committee has the final say and is slated to draw up the ballot on July 23. In 2007, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Fred Thompson were all listed even though they did not participate in the event.
“I’m hoping Rick Perry supporters will get involved in the straw poll, because it will bring more people there and more discussion to the table,’’ said one committee member, Steve Scheffler of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. “I’m encouraging them to come to Iowa often and early.’’