Perry testing the Iowa waters?

Is it beginning to look a lot like Perry-mas in Iowa?  According to Politico, Rick Perry has begun calling political organizers in the key caucus state to see how the ground looks, to the surprise of some.  According to Politico, Perry has also made arrangements for a meeting of the moneymen to plan a presidential campaign:

Rick Perry has started calling Iowa Republicans and a former RNC finance chairman is helping to convene a meeting of national donors later this month in Austin to discuss financing a potential 2012 campaign — signs that the Texas governor and his allies are stepping up their exploratory efforts.

If you’re in Iowa and your phone starts ringing, don’t be too surprised to hear a Texas drawl rather than a Midwestern twang on the other end:

Republican activist Joni Scotter told POLITICO she got a surprise phone call this afternoon from Perry, asking about the political landscape as it relates to him.

“It was just a surprise,” said Scotter, of Marion, who’s well-known for her frequent appearances at Iowa Republican events and is a coveted worker bee on presidential campaigns. She said she didn’t know how Perry got her number.

“He sounded great and just asked if he should run,” she said. “And I said, of course.” She said he said he hadn’t made up his mind. …

Dave Carney, Perry’s top strategist, confirmed that the governor had been reaching out to Republican caucus-goers.

This doesn’t surprise me at all.  I’ve been predicting a Perry run since April 2010, ever since I watched him speak to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference (since renamed the Republican Leadership Conference).  Perry issued a string of denials, but clearly the field has an opening for a Southern governor and an executive with as extensive a track record on job creation as Perry has.  Now that his back surgery has been successful and the legislature has wrapped up its business, Perry is free to start working on an exploratory committee and an eventual entry into the race.

Assuming Perry jumps in before the Ames poll, how will he impact the race?  Time is short, but Perry could get to Iowa soon enough to make an impact.  After having just entered the ring, expectations won’t be terribly high for Perry, not like they already are for Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann by now.  A third-place finish would be acceptable, but it’s more likely that Perry and the news of his entry will have the same impact on the race that Bachmann’s formal entry did last month.  He could easily end up dominating the news cycles in Iowa and around the nation, and his skills in retail politics will have a particular impact in caucus-driven Iowa. If Perry skips Ames, however, that will hurt him in Iowa in January — which is why I believe that Perry’s entry will come sooner rather than later.

Townhall plans on providing extensive coverage of the Ames debate on August 10th and the straw poll on August 13th.  Townhall’s Guy Benson, Tina Korbe, and me will all be in Ames that week, trailing the candidates and tracking their progress.  Be sure to stay tuned to coverage at both Townhall and Hot Air.