Rick Perry 2016?

Of all the electoral maneuvers lately — Huckabee heading to Iowa, Santorum huddling with advisors, Allen West refusing to rule anything out, and even Joe Scarborough visiting New Hampshire — this is the most interesting.

Is there room for Perry this time, though?

Perry, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, will be in Des Moines and Davenport on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28.

He will be sitting down with business leaders to discuss a wide range of issues, according to Bob Haus, an adviser in the state.

He also will be taping an episode of “Iowa Press,” Iowa Public Television’s weekly public affairs program, Haus said.

Perry intends to discuss his efforts with Americans for Economic Freedom, a group he formed last year that is aimed at promoting state policies that lead to economic expansion and job creation.

He jumped in last time because the field sorely needed a credible conservative alternative to Romney. Didn’t work out. He might jump in this time because the field sorely needs a credible conservative alternative to … Rand Paul? Ted Cruz? Rubio? At least one of those guys is definitely running, and maybe more than one. If none of them are sufficiently socially conservative for you, Santorum and maybe even Huckabee will probably end up running too. The argument for Perry, I suppose, is that he’s the only one potential tea-party champion with executive experience, but I can’t believe that’ll put him over the top when it didn’t help him last time. (Yeah, Romney had a few years of experience as a governor too but he ran on his business record, not his stewardship of Massachusetts.) Besides, Paul, Rubio, and Cruz have all been in the thick of major policy debates over the past year. If you’re looking for a candidate to vindicate your principles, why look past those three to a guy who’s retiring as governor after flaming out in 2012?

Maybe he’s banking on the Republican “next in line” effect to propel him. In theory, as the 2012 runner-up, Santorum’s the “next in line,” but no one seriously thinks he’s going to be the nominee. Paul Ryan would become “next in line” if he runs, but most people think he won’t. Perry could be calculating that he’s well positioned to fill that vacuum; he’s the next full-spectrum conservative candidate in line, at least. And there is, I guess, a way for him to cobble together a coalition among righties who are disaffected with their other options. Some may find Rand Paul’s libertarian leanings suspicious, especially on social issues; others may rule out Rubio for carrying too much water on amnesty, even though Perry himself is moderate on immigration. Others may want a social con as nominee but not someone whose chief political identity is as a social conservative a la Santorum or Huckabee. If Cruz runs, though, I think he’d cannibalize most of Perry’s support, Perry’s executive pedigree notwithstanding. Which, maybe, explains Perry’s presence in Iowa now. No reason not to keep his options open just in case Cruz decides not to run. Which, I think, is what he’ll end up deciding.