He’s in:

“I’m not ready to tell you that I’m ready to announce that I’m in,” Gov. Rick Perry told The Des Moines Register. “But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs.”

But, er, not on fire?

Another big-name potential Republican presidential candidate who is still on the sidelines, Sarah Palin, told Fox News in May that she has “that fire in the belly” to run. It remains a question whether Perry does.

“I’ll be real honest with you, I don’t wake up in the morning – never did and still don’t today – and say, ‘Gee, I want to be president of the United States,’ ” Perry, 61, said by phone last week.

Actually, the “fire in the belly” remark tends to make me think Perry is actually closer to announcing than people might assume.  Distrust of those who actively seek power is an enduring theme in American politics, one that goes back to the founding of our nation, when presidential candidates tried very hard not to look like they were campaigning for office.  Politicians would much rather be “called” into action, which in this age we also call getting “drafted” into the race.  Rather than appearing power-hungry, most candidates like to frame their entry into the race as a duty to which they have reluctantly responded because of the times and issues at play.

Perry has busied himself with briefings on foreign policy of late, another strong indicator that a new Stetson will shortly fly into the ring:

Word in Austin is that Rick Perry is doing everything necessary to prepare for a presidential run, including brushing up on foreign policy.

We hear that he recently met with top national-security experts Doug Feith and William Luti.

Feith, who served in the George W. Bush administration as under secretary of defense, confirmed to National Review Online that he had met with Perry in Austin Wednesday. He would not divulge the details of the conversation, but said it centered on “national security” matters.

Katrina Trinko has a quick update this morning:

“Yes, I was invited by and met with Governor Perry last week,” Luti e-mails. “I was happy to discuss my views on national security with him as I would if asked by any other presidential candidate.”

Also meeting Perry last week was NR’s own Andy McCarthy — a fact which I learned about after reporting on the initial meeting.

Perry told the Des Moines Register that he would make his decision within two to three weeks.  Not too coincidentally, the Ames debate will take place in about three and a half weeks, on August 11th, which will be nationally televised by Fox News.  That would provide an impressive springboard into the race, plus the late entry would tamp down expectations in the straw poll itself without unnecessarily alienating Iowa Republicans by skipping it altogether.

Expect to hear about an exploratory committee by the week before the debate, and a need for Fox to add one more podium to the stage.