Looks like the rumors this week about Rick Perry are at least somewhat true — and this time they’re confirmed by the man himself.  Perry, who has denied for months that he has any interest in the Republican nomination for president, says now that he will consider entering the race after the current state legislative session concludes — on Monday:

Gov. Rick Perry today gave his strongest indication yet that he may run for president.

“I’m going to think about it” after the legislative session ends Monday, Perry said. He added, “But I think about a lot of things.” …

The presidential talk began when a reporter asked Perry for his reaction to the fact that the Hispanic Republican Conference of Texas, a group of state legislators, endorsed him for president on Thursday.

“I don’t make a lot of anything dealing with that until we get past the Monday deadline for this legislative session,” Perry said. “That’s our focus. I appreciate everybody’s interest. All of us know that the work at hand is the most important thing we have to do in getting this balanced budget finalized and passing pieces of legislation like this.”

I’ve been expecting Perry to get serious about a 2012 bid for quite a while, and a Perry candidacy makes a lot of sense.  He has spent the last several months engaging on national issues that set him up as a natural opponent to Barack Obama.  He has a wildly successful record as a jobs creator in Texas, in a cycle where jobs will likely be the most pressing issue.  Perry has nothing to lose by running, since he just started his third term in Texas and can go back to being governor if a run is unsuccessful.  He’s probably not going to run for a fourth term, which makes the presidency the natural next step.

Perry would be one of the few game-changers on entering the race.  For one thing, he’s an excellent and inspirational public speaker and would both rally the conservative base and appeal to some independents and moderates.  He would also be the only Southern officeholder in the race, which would give him at least a good chance of winning South Carolina.  Perry has the executive experience and track record that would seriously highlight the inexperience and incompetence of Barack Obama.

What happens if Perry jumps into the race?  It will probably eat away at Mitt Romney’s lead, since Romney’s making the case for economic competence, and it might steal some of Sarah Palin’s thunder.  It will almost certainly hurt Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain for different reasons.  We’ll have to see what happens when pollsters catch up to the possibility of a Perry run, but I’d expect him to draft a fairly significant level of support from the beginning.