Skeptics aside, Texas' Perry marching toward 2016

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Skeptics aside, Texas' Perry marching toward 2016

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was booked Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, on two felony counts for allegedly carrying out political threats.

(Image courtesy: Travis County Sheriff's Office)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, center, arrives at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry has been booked on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding to state public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, center, is booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry has been booked on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding to state public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks to the media and supporters after he was booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, leaves the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center after he was booked, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks to the media and supporters after he was booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks to the media and supporters after he was booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry casts his vote in the Cast you Kernel competition at the Iowa State Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. The fair runs through Aug. 17th. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry walks on the main concourse before speaking at the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. The fair runs through Aug. 17th. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry walks on the main concourse before speaking at the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. The fair runs through Aug. 17th. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. The fair runs through Aug. 17th. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. The fair runs through Aug. 17th. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Governor Rick Perry pauses as he addresses attendees at the 2014 Red State Gathering, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry gives a thumbs-up to supporters before speaking at the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. The fair runs through Aug. 17th. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Texas Governor Rick Perry waits to greet US President Barack Obama in Dallas, Texas, on July 9, 2014 as he arrives for a meeting with local elected officials and faith leaders to discuss the urgent humanitarian situation at the Southwest border. Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to help cope with a surge of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican Party made appearances at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican Party made appearances at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Texas Governor Rick Perry waits to greet US President Barack Obama in Dallas, Texas, on July 9, 2014 as he arrives for a meeting with local elected officials and faith leaders to discuss the urgent humanitarian situation at the Southwest border. Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to help cope with a surge of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
This Aug. 8, 2014, photo shows Governor Rick Perry as he speaks at the 2014 Red State Gathering, in Fort Worth, Texas. The Associated Press has tracked the movements and machinations of more than a dozen prospective presidential candidates including Perry. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to reporters following a fund-raising breakfast for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Rick Perry arrives at the Champions of Jewish Values International Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on Sunday, May 18, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)
Gov. Rick Perry gives a speech during the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday, June, 5, 2014. In his address, the longest-serving governor in the state's history focused more on the future and national issues than his political legacy at home. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
FILE - In this April 23, 2014 file photo Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks in New York after trying to convince companies to move their operations to Texas. If Perry opts to make a second presidential run, his business-friendly policies in Texas will be his main selling points. But back home, members of his own party seem poised to dismantle key parts of his legacy. Among the targets: the special state funds Perry used to attract top employers to Texas. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to the media after meeting with business owners Wednesday, April 23, 2014, at a barbecue restaurant in New York. Perry, a Republican, made the trip to try to convince companies to move their operations to Texas, where he says the business climate is friendlier. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Gov. Rick Perry gives a speech during the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday, June, 5, 2014. In his address, the longest-serving governor in the state's history focused more on the future and national issues than his political legacy at home. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
File - In this May 28, 2013, file photo Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks in Austin, Texas. Perry waded into Missouri's political battle over taxes Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, endorsing an uphill effort by Republican legislators to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of an income tax cut. Perry plans to make a personal appearance next week in Missouri to tout Texas' business-friendly environment. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a ceremonial signing of a water fund bill, Tuesday, May 28, 2013, in Austin, Texas. The legislative session ended Monday, but Perry immediately called lawmakers back for a special session. They have 30 days to approve new voting maps, though the governor will likely add more items to the agenda. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
President Barack Obama, right, talks with Texas Gov. Rick Perry as they walk on the tarmac during his arrival on Air Force One at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Thursday, May 9, 2013 in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Jack Plunkett)
FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2013 file photo, Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses the opening session of the 83rd Texas Legislature in Austin, Texas. Perry announced Wednesday, April 17, 2013, that he is heading to Illinois to recruit businesses to relocate to Texas. He will spend one night in Chicago from April 23-24 meeting with business leaders in the biotechnology and financial industries. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Texas Gov, Rick Perry, speaks at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, March 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to reporters after a speech Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, in Dallas. In his speech to business leaders, Gov. Perry outlined how he would continue pressing for spending some of the state's reserves on water and transportation projects. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry looks over papers as he arrives at the Texas Capitol to deliver the state of the state address, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2013 file photo, Gov. Rick Perry delivers the state of the state address in the house chambers at the state capitol, in Austin, Texas. With nearly two million illegal immigrants and a 1,200-mile border with Mexico, Texas has more at stake than most states in the renewed push to overhaul the nation's immigration system. Yet so far, Perry and Republicans who control the Legislature have been conspicuously sitting this debate out. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, shakes hands after addressing the opening session of the 83rd Texas Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry casts his vote in the Cast you Kernel competition at the Iowa State Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. The fair runs through Aug. 17th. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry walks on the main concourse before speaking at the Des Moines Register's Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. The fair runs through Aug. 17th. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) - Republicans along New Hampshire's seacoast once gave Rick Perry a rock star's welcome, rallying behind the longtime Texas governor as a political savior destined to reclaim the White House for the GOP.

Today, there is perhaps no better place that illustrates Perry's challenges as he works to resurrect his presidential ambitions.

"I wish him the best of luck if he tries to make a comeback," said state Rep. Pam Tucker, who hosted Perry's inaugural New Hampshire rally in her backyard and supported Perry "to the bitter end" in 2012, but wasn't invited to join a small delegation of New Hampshire officials who met with Perry in Texas last month.

Asked about the governor's new image, which includes dark-rimmed glasses that can't help but create an intellectual look, Tucker said: "I don't think a physical makeover is going to make any difference."

Those close to Perry say he is aggressively eyeing a second presidential bid, even if he has to rebuild a political operation from scratch in the state that hosts the nation's first presidential primary. As he begins to re-engage with New Hampshire voters during his first trip to the state since the 2012 election later this month, the Texas Republican faces deep skepticism and lingering embarrassment from some of those who were once among his biggest believers.

Perry will forever be remembered for his performance during one of the many GOP presidential debates in 2010, when he tried repeatedly - but failed - to name the third government agency he would eliminate as part of his budget plan. All he could come up with: "Oops."

"Mistakes were made. You can't hide from that," said Perry adviser Mark Miner, previewing what could become a familiar talking point for a second Perry campaign. "But it's a bigger issue that Washington and the politicians of Washington have forgotten how to govern than Gov. Perry forgetting a government agency two years ago."

With chiseled good looks, the 64-year-old is the nation's longest serving governor, having led a state since 2000 that can claim credit for much of the country's recent job growth. He also has a unique ability to connect with voters one-on-one - a significant asset in the diners and living rooms of early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Perry has also emerged as a leading Republican voice in the immigration debate in recent weeks, having sent 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border to help handle an influx of young immigrants.

Major questions remain, however, about his ability to raise money among the party's biggest donors, who are as skeptical in some cases as the New Hampshire voters he disappointed in 2012.

"He's a very gifted politician," said Ron Kaufman, a veteran of GOP presidential politics. "The trouble is, it's always harder to rebuild than build. He's certainly got some rebuilding to do."

Perry briefly addressed his political strengths in a conference call with New Hampshire reporters last week when asked about the embarrassment that lingers among some former supporters.

"I'm pretty proud of what we've been able to do in Texas - whether it's the creation of jobs, more so than any other state in the nation, or whether it's filling a void when the federal government fails to do their constitutional responsibilities," Perry said. "2016 will take care of itself when 2016 comes along."

Perry is taking definite steps in that direction. For more than a year, he has been holding weekly meetings with experts on foreign and domestic policy - either in person or on the phone - to create what his advisers call "a fluency" in complicated topics.

He has also increased foreign and domestic travel with stops this year at World Economic Forum in Davos, the Jimmy Kimmel show and New York, Iowa and South Carolina in recent months. He visits New Hampshire on Aug. 22 and 23. And this fall, he makes another international swing that includes stops in China, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and Croatia.

With the help of veteran Republican operative Henry Barbour, Perry has also begun hiring staff in key states to help prepare for a possible run. His travel and staffing is being paid by a nonprofit group, led by his chief political adviser, called Americans for Economic Freedom, which can raise and spend unlimited sums of money without disclosing its donors.

This week, Perry also created a political action committee that is designed, at least initially, to help elect other Republicans in the November midterms.

"They've done a spectacular job in relaunching," said Dave Carney, who served as a senior adviser to Perry for much of his first run. "Rick Perry is an impressive person. He's going to have to prove that again."

Still, the skeptics are easy to find in New Hampshire, where Perry's top state adviser from the 2012 campaign is among those who have moved on. A newly hired adviser, veteran operative Mike Dennehy, is working to connect Perry with a new group of business leaders and Republican activists - largely ignoring his previous team.

"This is an entirely new election, and it warrants an entirely new campaign - assuming he gets in," Dennehy said.

Related:
Americans for Economic Freedom
Henry Barbour
New Hampshire Republican Party
New Hampshire GOP

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