Buzz is intensifying that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) might jump into the Republican presidential race, and tonight he'll appear in Manhattan to be the keynote speaker at a GOP Lincoln Day dinner, likely adding to the 2012 speculation that has surrounded him since last week.
Dinners like this one, held by state parties across the nation, supply politicians with face-time and an opportunity to meet activists and, more importantly, donors. While New York is a Democratic place, it's also an epicenter of political money, and GOP presidential candidates have been known to raise a lot there. John McCain, for instance, raised $13.5 million from donors in the state of New York in 2008.
The dinner will be hosted by the New York Republican County Committee, the GOP's official presence in Manhattan, at the Grand Hyatt at 109 East 42nd Street. Ann Coulter will be the only other high-profile speaker.
Perry-for-president speculation was ignited last week by the en-masse resignation of Newt Gingrich's campaign staff, some of whom have ties to Perry. Sources close to Perry told CBS last week that the governor is "serious" about running for president.
Speculation continued to snowball on Monday as a conservative group with ties to Perry ">took out web ads and placed an op-ed in a New Hampshire newspaper promoting tort reform and praising Perry's efforts in Texas.
If he keynotes a few more GOP gatherings out of state (particularly in donor hotspots like New York or California, or in actual primary states like Iowa or South Carolina), the Perry buzz will probably get slower and louder until it sounds more like a drumbeat.
At this nascent stage in the 2012 campaign, most Republicans are happy with the field of available candidates, but a large chunk aren't. A May 24-26 CNN poll showed 39 percent of Republican respondents unsatisfied with the field. Consequently, some Republicans seem to be hoping for a new option to arrive. After considerable speculation was devoted to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a possible late entry, Perry is now the "it" name among Republican politicians who aren't running but who seem like they could.