Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry (left) and Mitt Romney prepare to shake hands with other candidates at the end of a presidential debate sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express at the Florida state fairgrounds in Tampa on Monday.
Members of Congress shouldn’t wait by the phone for Texas Gov. Rick Perry to call.
The surging GOP presidential contender makes no secret of his disdain for Washington, D.C., and so far, his campaign’s efforts to get chummy with Members are minimal.
Perry’s nascent Congressional outreach operation is spontaneous and decentralized, according to interviews with Texas operatives, Capitol Hill aides and K Street supporters. They say Congressional endorsements are not Perry’s priority — at least not yet — except for Members from early presidential primary states.
Perry’s backers on the Hill have not had a formal meeting or organized their efforts, and one of Perry’s supporters, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), struggled to name which of his colleagues also supported the governor.
“I don’t really know who else,” Scalise said. “I couldn’t give you a list of them. I imagine there’s one that’s assembled somewhere. I think it’s clear that’s not a main focus of the Perry campaign. They’re focused on getting his grass-roots base built up in the early primary states and raising money to compete.”
The race for Member endorsements is a prickly process for candidates — especially Perry, who’s branded himself as an anti-Washington candidate. Perry unveiled two major gubernatorial endorsements this week, but on Capitol Hill his campaign has been slower to boast about support.
At least nine Members have voiced their support for Perry: Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), Reps. John Carter (Texas), Mike Conaway (Texas), John Culberson (Texas), Sam Graves (Mo.), Michael McCaul (Texas), Candice Miller (Mich.), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.) and Scalise. Perry’s campaign did not return an email request seeking a list of its endorsements or comment about its outreach efforts.
Despite this, Perry’s public backers total more than any presidential candidate who has served in Congress and more than half of two-time presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s tally.
Perry’s supporters point out the campaign is still young and that the governor will make his first major visit to Washington, D.C., later this month. A pair of fundraisers will serve as an introduction of Perry to rainmakers downtown.
But his Sept. 27 visit also falls in the middle of a Congressional recess, when almost all Members vacate Capitol Hill for their districts or for their own fundraising junkets. As a result, many Members will have to wait to meet Perry.
“I don’t think they’re trying to win the Washington primary. He’s never been that type of candidate,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Perry supporter and GOP strategist from Texas. “These folks in Washington want to know who they’re supporting, but they also want to support the winner. Those two factors are in direct conflict right now.”
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