Might be an official announcement or it might be unofficial but clear enough. Either way, he’s in. By Saturday night, he’ll be in New Hampshire attending a house party thrown by a state representative who had encouraged him to run for president.

Say, isn’t something else happening on Saturday?

Rick Perry intends to use a speech in South Carolina Saturday to make clear that he’s running for president, POLITICO has learned.

According to two sources familiar with the plan, the Texas governor will remove any doubt about his White House intentions during his appearance at a RedState conference in Charleston.

It’s uncertain whether Saturday will mark a formal declaration, but Perry’s decision to disclose his intentions the same day as the Ames straw poll—and then hours later make his first trip to New Hampshire— will send shockwaves through the race and upend whatever results come out of the straw poll…

Perry is expected to head to Iowa in the days following his New Hampshire trek, too, POLITICO has learned.

I’m a bit surprised that he’d bigfoot the straw poll and deny the winner his/her day in the sun, but it’s good strategy. If, as expected, Bachmann wins, he needs to short-circuit her buzz and blunt her momentum ASAP before she consolidates more of the tea-party votes he needs. If Ron Paul or Pawlenty pulls the upset, then having Perry enter just as Bachmann hits the iceberg will make him an obvious choice to pick up her supporters as they abandon ship. Either way, he can’t waste a moment in taking her on, especially with Palin ready to enter and compete for those same voters. Frankly, I half-expect to see him in the front row at the debate on Thursday night, scowling at Romney and punching his fist into the palm of his other hand.

Exit question: How funny would it be if Palin suddenly announced on Saturday too?

Update: Not a moment to lose:

The first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Iowa’s Likely Caucus Participants shows that Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann attracts 22% support, while former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney earn 21%. Just slightly behind is Texas Congressman Ron Paul at 16%, followed by Texas Governor Rick Perry at 12% and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at 11%…

Bachmann is the most popular candidate among potential caucus-goers. Seventy percent (70%) have a favorable opinion of her, including 37% with a Very Favorable opinion. No other candidate in the field earns Very Favorable reviews from more than 20%.

Update: Via Bryan Preston, here’s what the RP fans at Students 4 Perry cooked up a few days ago.