LOS ANGELES (AP) – Governor Rick Perry will swing through California this week for private meetings with Republican leaders, potential fundraisers and legislators that will stoke speculation that he plans to enter the 2012 Republican presidential contest.
His California swing starts today in San Diego, where he will speak at a Boy Scouts event.
Perry is scheduled to hold a closed-door event Thursday morning with business leaders in Beverly Hills, a city known as a rich source of campaign dollars. He then heads to Newport Beach in Orange County, where he will meet privately with Republican Party officials, before flying to Sacramento to meet with several dozen GOP legislators.
It will be the Republican governor’s second trip to the nation’s most populous state in less than three weeks.
A Perry spokesman said the stopover was not connected with the 2012 campaign, but some Republicans said the governor’s extensive agenda in California leaves no doubt about his intentions.
“I sense that he is beyond considering running for president. He is now planning to run for president,” said Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel, an attorney from Palos Verdes.
Perry’s California trip “has everything to do with 2012,” added Steel, who plans to attend the Orange County event.
Los Angeles lawyer David Fleming, a former chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and a prominent political fundraiser, described the Beverly Hills meeting as a “kind of a meet-and-greet” where Perry “wants to come out and meet some business leaders in Southern California.”
“I wasn’t aware it was a fundraiser, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was,” Fleming quipped, alluding to the speculation about Perry’s political future.
With Perry considering the race, his appearance will amount to a California debut before Republicans who polls show are eager to see more candidates join a field that includes former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, pizza magnate Herman Cain, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
It will also introduce him to party insiders, conservative activists and fundraisers who could become the backbone of a campaign, should be decide to run.
A Perry spokesman, Mark Miner, said the governor plans to talk about the Texas economy and the trip is not connected with the presidential campaign.
“The governor has not made a decision,” Miner said.
Perry had dismissed talk that he would seek the GOP nomination next year, but he reignited speculation in May with an off-the-cuff remark: “I’m going to think about it.” Since then, two of Perry’s former top political advisers fled Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, while Perry traveled to Los Angeles, New York and New Orleans on trips that raised his national profile.
California Assemblyman Dan Logue, who organized a website urging Perry to join the 2012 field, said about 40 legislators will meet with the governor in Sacramento.
“I think he has the best chance of … being our next president,” Logue said. “People are saying this guy has to do this.”
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