His team is still denying it, and people I know who know people on his team are also still denying it, but until Perrymania ebbs among the base I’m milking this buzz for easy content with both hands.

The important question now: Will new rumors about Perry getting in derail the momentum that’s building for Pataki 2012?

A Republican campaign veteran tells us that Texas Governor Rick Perry has decided to run for President, though the official word from Team Perry is still a definite maybe.

Our normally reliable Republican source reports that Mr. Perry has surveyed the field and decided to get in the race later this summer, perhaps around the time of the national prayer meeting that Mr. Perry is hosting on August 6 at a Houston football stadium. Our source also reports that Mr. Perry is aiming to compete in the Iowa Straw Poll, even though it occurs just a week later, on August 13. The thinking is that apparent front-runner Mitt Romney “does not reflect the Republican Party” and is therefore vulnerable to a credible challenge from the right, especially after Mr. Romney’s recent squishy remarks on global warming.

RCP reported last night that his advisors are quietly reaching out to operatives in New Hampshire too. Help me with the timeline here, though: He’s going to get in just a week before Ames, by which time he’ll presumably have done little or no campaigning in-state? Huh. That sounds nutty at first glance, but it actually could be a shrewd form of bet-hedging. If he jumps in now, goes all-out on the trail in Iowa, and ends up disappointing in the straw poll, the media will sink him with Fred Thompson “flash in the pan” comparisons. If he skips the straw poll altogether, though, Iowans might feel snubbed, especially with Bachmann and Pawlenty competing hard there. Perry can’t afford to alienate them; unlike Romney, he needs to do well in Iowa to have a path to the nomination. So he’s going to compromise — he’ll jump in shortly before the straw poll, hoping to ride the aftermath of his prayer event in Houston to a shockingly strong finish and then leverage that buzz into a major campaign. Conversely, if he does poorly, it’s no biggie. He’ll simply blame it on the fact that he’d only been in the race for a week and hadn’t spent much time in the state yet, etc. Lots of upside and little downside to this strategy, especially since (per Huckabee 2008) losing Ames doesn’t mean you’ll lose the caucuses.

The best sign that he’s running, perhaps: A whole new round of rumors that he’s gay being spread by his opponents. Ace wonders how the media rationalizes running stuff like that without any evidence, but we already know how from the Tucson shootings. First someone says, “The shooter must have been inspired by Palin’s crosshairs map,” then that non-fact starts to churn because it’s simply irresistible to the media as a capital-N Narrative, and then when it turns out there’s nothing to it, the coverage shifts to whether the Narrative is a political problem for its target even though it’s not true. Report the facts, and if the facts aren’t there for you, report the misperception of those facts because, hey, that’s a political fact on the ground too. “Will gay rumors hurt Perry on the trail?” thus becomes a handy way of spreading those rumors without fully taking responsibility for spreading them. Sleazy, but as I say, we’ve seen this before.