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Rick Perry Builds Florida Team, Hears From Haley Barbour

Tom Williams/Roll Call

Updated Aug. 19, 9:58 a.m.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is moving aggressively to assemble a presidential campaign team in Florida and, according to at least one knowledgeable Republican source, is receiving political advice from Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Poised to join Perry’s Florida team is the experienced, Tallahassee-based Republican political consultant Randy Enwright, according to a Sunshine State GOP operative. Enwright previously advised President George W. Bush, who served as Texas governor before ascending to the White House, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The operative predicted that many Sunshine State Republicans who had signed on with Barbour’s since-aborted presidential campaign would end up on Perry’s team.

“My sense is that [the Perry campaign] is pulling together a pretty good operation down here. They’re taking Florida pretty seriously,” the operative told Roll Call in a telephone interview. “Governor Perry’s had conversations with a lot of people down here.”

A second GOP source, this one based in Washington, D.C., said Barbour and Perry are in constant contact about the Texan’s just-launched presidential bid. The source said much of the Mississippi governor’s organization is likely to be folded into the Perry campaign, both in Florida and other states. Barbour dropped his presidential bid in late April; Perry officially launched his candidacy Saturday.

Both politicians have served as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and have a pre-existing relationship. “Haley’s organization is becoming a part of Perry’s,” the D.C.-based source said.

Enwright could not be reached for comment, but news of his connection to the Perry campaign has also been reported by the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. The Perry campaign declined to comment on its moves in Florida.

Next on the horizon for Perry could be endorsements from Florida state legislators. The Florida operative speculated that the Texas governor could pick up at least a few significant backers from the state House, some of whom could materialize because of direct requests for support from the Perry campaign and some who come on their own.

State Sen. Don Gaetz (R), positioned to become the next president of the Florida Senate, announced his endorsement of Perry in a Facebook post.

According to Roll Call’s count, Perry has scored endorsements from two GOP Members of Congress since jumping in the race: Reps. Michael McCaul of Texas and Sam Graves of Missouri.

On Thursday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announce eight more endorsements from members of the Florida Legislature, bringing his total number of backers in the state House to 12.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is the only candidate who has based his campaign in the Sunshine State. This week he announced Florida endorsements from a state Senator and Coral Gables mayor, former Ambassador Jim Cason.

Perry and Romney lead most national polls gauging support for the GOP presidential candidates.

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