Perry readies announcement for second half of August

It's not a very well kept secret that Rick Perry will almost certainly run for president. The signs have been there for months.

But GOP voters have been disappointed in the past year when several high profile conservatives dipped a toe in the water and decided not to take the plunge. This has made Perry's Minuet with the press and potential GOP supporters more newsworthy. Will he or won't he?

Sarah Palin is probably wondering too.

RealClear Politics:

While Perry has focused on determining whether he can raise the funds necessary to run a credible campaign, his strategists have begun locking down verbal commitments from vendors and other potential top staff who would fill out a campaign organization. One who was contacted about a senior staff position was told, "This is a 99 percent sure thing." Another said he was told, "He is 100 percent in." That wouldn't seem to leave much margin of error, but a third vendor who was approached said that while Perry's political circle is lining up a staff, they are doing so without knowing what Perry's final call will be.

Meanwhile, Perry has traveled to California twice recently to meet with potential GOP donors, and his team has organized another big meeting for conservative contributors this Thursday in Austin to follow on last week's efforts there.

Sources steeped in Texas politics also told RCP that Perry has made follow-up calls to many of his own state's biggest donors to inform them that he is running so he can confirm the level of financial commitment he can count on from them. That may be to determine what his overall funding will look like in the early stages of a campaign so he can figure out how to structure his organization -- and have a strong one in place by the time he announces.

Perry also has begun to prime the press in the first two nominating states, Iowa and New Hampshire. He has communicated with his Texas-based press corps en masse, but has given few other interviews since he began exploring a presidential bid in June. He granted an exclusive interview to the Hawkeye State's largest paper, the Des Moines Register, about 10 days ago. And over the weekend he phoned the dean of the New Hampshire political press, John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Perry is one of the few candidates who could hold off announcing his intentions until less than 5 months before the Iowa caucuses. Sarah Palin is the another. However, while Perry seems extremely busy in making all the preliminary moves toward running, Sarah Palin appears to be biding her time. She has the bare bones of a campaign staff and no doubt, has explored what her donor base would be outside of the internet. But beyond some preliminary planning in Iowa and New Hampshire, she trails all other major candidates in organizing for a run. This may be a deliberate strategy. Or it may reveal that she will not be running in 2012.

Perry's instant credibility would knock the GOP race for a loop. Most affected would probably be Michelle Bachmann who has a huge head start on Perry in Iowa. This might scare off the Texas governor and force him to make New Hampshire their first battleground. It would set up a classic GOP contest between the conservatives Perry and Bachmann and the moderate Romney in the Granite State.

Perry can do it but it certainly won't be a cakewalk. He and Bachmann will be splitting the conservative vote until one or the other is eliminated. This presumes that neither candidate will make a fatal gaffe between now and the Iowa caucuses.

Perry's entrance in the race - like Palin's - is a gamechanger. In whose favor the game changes is the question yet to be answered.