The biggest practical problem Perry faces, Carney said, is fundraising. It could take $50 million to run a credible primary campaign. "It takes time to raise money — the candidate's time," he noted. Major donors want to meet a candidate in person before they write a check or recruit their friends to help.
But even if Perry decides that the fundraising challenge can be conquered, he has a more basic decision to make.
"He needs to do a gut check," Carney said. "You can't run for president as a hobby."
And there's a third question Perry needs to consider, in the view of some potential supporters: Can he present his ruggedly conservative views in a way that will appeal to voters far from Texas?
The conventional wisdom is that he's too conservative, too controversial and maybe not as book smart as the men he'd be running against. But that's what they said in 1980, when the candidate was Ronald Reagan.
Shawn Steel, former chairman of the California Republican Party — who met with Perry in Newport Beach last month — isn't sure that Perry can pull off a Reagan-style victory. The former California governor, he noted, could "take controversial positions and make them sound like ice cream. Can Perry do that?"
Right now, Perry's rawboned conservatism doesn't sound much like ice cream. It's more like strong tea, with no sweetener. But even his toughest critics in Texas say he's a formidable campaigner, so if he runs, we'll see an epic battle for the heart of the Republican Party.