NEW ORLEANS, LA - JUNE 18: Rick Perry for president buttons are displayed during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference on June 18, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 2011 Republican Leadership Conference features keynote addresses from most of the major republican candidates for president as well as numerous republican leaders from across the country. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has telephoned influential Republicans in early voting New Hampshire and Iowa in recent days as he weighs whether to enter the race for the GOP presidential nomination.
"He was looking for my thoughts in terms of what the presidential field looked like and what might happen if someone came in and shook things up a little bit," New Hampshire Senate President Peter Bragdon told The Associated Press on Monday after receiving a weekend voicemail message on his cell phone from Perry. "It certainly left me with the impression that he's doing his homework and giving it some serious consideration."
The conservative Texan also called several GOP leaders in Iowa, which will hold the first contest in next year's GOP presidential race. Among those contacted, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Perry left a message for her but didn't indicate whether he planned to run.
"He looked forward to the opportunity to have a face-to-face and talk about great things that could happen in Iowa as well as the nation," Reynolds told the AP. "He just said he looked forward to seeing me soon."
Perry's efforts to reach out to Republican officeholders in both states show just how seriously he's considering a presidential run as polls suggest Republican primary voters in early voting states and elsewhere are generally underwhelmed by the current slate of candidates.
The field is largely set, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- who lost the nomination to John McCain in 2008 -- ahead in most early surveys. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee, and Perry are the only two major question marks.
Perry, Texas' longest serving governor, had spent months saying that he would not seek the nomination. He reversed course several weeks ago, and has been openly considering a bid.
Last month, Perry aides began making inquiries in Iowa about the timing and rules of the state's leadoff nominating caucuses, as well as the Iowa GOP's presidential straw poll, scheduled for Aug. 13 in Ames. There also is an Iowa movement afoot to draft Perry to run; it has hired staffers to try to build support for Perry at the Ames popularity contest that could shape the race.
A former Perry aide also is inquiring about available campaign staff, according to Greg Baker, an Iowa Republican consultant now working for a faith-based advocacy group in the state. Baker wouldn't identify the ex-aide who was reaching out but said: "He was just checking on a few names of people seeing how I felt about them, checking on different possible staff people, if he were to run.
Perry spokesman Mark Miner acknowledged that the governor was reaching out to people across the country, saying: "He's continuing to talk to folks as part of his process of making a decision."
New Hampshire conservative leader and former Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne said he spoke to Perry "for the better part of half an hour" on Saturday.
"I told him that I think this is a wide-open race. While there are some good candidates out there, I think folks are still looking," said Lamontagne, who hasn't committed to a candidate. "I have the impression that he's in the process of making a decision. Obviously he's quite serious about it."
In recent days, Perry also phoned at least four Iowa Republicans representing crucial constituencies in the leadoff caucus state.
They include: state Rep. Stewart Iverson, a former Iowa Senate president and past state GOP chairman; Joni Scotter, an activist known for her volunteer work who was a top backer of Romney's 2008 campaign; and Steve Scheffler, a leading Iowa social conservative and Republican National Committee member.
Perry also invited Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Reynolds to the day of prayer planned for Aug. 6 in Houston. The pair said they are unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
It's one of several high-profile public appearances Perry has added to his schedule as he weighs a bid.
His next scheduled appearance in New Hampshire, home to the nation's first presidential primary, is an Oct. 28 keynote dinner address before the conservative interest group Cornerstone. He has no plans, thus far, to visit Iowa.
Associated Press reporter Thomas Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. April Castro in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.