Texas Governor Rick Perry addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Marriott Wardman Park February 11, 2011 in Washington, DC. A dozen potential Republican presidential hopefuls are set to address CPAC, the biggest gathering of conservative activists in the country.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad says he think it's very likely that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will jump into the Republican presidential race and reshape the campaign for Iowa's leadoff presidential caucuses.
"I get the definite impression he's very likely to run," Branstad told The Associated Press on Saturday, basing his opinion on a conversation the two Republican governors had Friday.
Branstad said Perry told him his family wants him to run. Branstad also said he expects Perry to visit Iowa in the next month or so.
Perry would alter the race in Iowa, were he to get in, Branstad said.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has shot to the top of state polls since entering the race last month, with early support from tea party supporters and evangelical conservatives. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also rates well in Iowa, but has signaled he plans to focus his early campaign on New Hampshire rather than Iowa. And former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has struggled to demonstrate support despite lining up top tier advisers and visiting Iowa often over the last year and a half.
Perry's pro-business profile and strong ties to the social conservative movement could help him bridge the two wings of Iowa's GOP base, Branstad said. And it doesn't hurt that he is the former Texas agriculture commissioner.
"I think he becomes a significant factor if he becomes a candidate," Branstad said. "It could change the whole complexion of the Iowa caucus race."
Perry has been making hundreds of calls in recent weeks to potential donors, activists and political figures, in recent weeks as he gathers information about a potential run.
Branstad got the call from Perry while attending the National Governors Association meeting in Salt Lake City, which Perry skipped. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is also seeking the GOP nomination but not campaigning in Iowa, met privately with Branstad in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
Branstad has been heavily courted by the Republican candidates for president visiting his state. He has said he plans to be neutral during the Iowa caucus campaign, but has left the door open to endorse a candidate before the first caucus, set for February.
Perry has also called U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley and other influential Republicans in Iowa.
Top political aides to Perry have also inquired about the caucuses, as they try to quickly prepare for a potential campaign.
Perry's top consultant Dave Carney told the AP that he also has talked with people about the possibility of staffing an Iowa caucus campaign.
"I've talked to people in Iowa and potential staff people," Carney said. "We're doing that in lots of places, not just Iowa."
Associated Press writer Charles Babington in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.