“He’s got an even better story to tell now than he did in 2012, and he’ll have a lot more time to tell it,” Haus said. “And yes, that time will allow him to prove himself on the stage again. We saw during the later debates what his focused preparation yielded: strong answers and succinct policy.”

But even Perry’s strongest admirers agree that it won’t be easy for him to compete seriously in 2016.

During his appearance earlier this year at the CPAC gathering outside of Washington, Perry made barely a blip amid a schedule packed with newer additions to the national scene, suggesting that grassroots activists largely had moved on from a man who didn’t seem up to the task of running for president and who disappointed conservatives when he failed to respond effectively to criticism of him on key issues.

Perry took particular heat among rank-and-file Republicans during the primaries for legislation he signed that allowed the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Texas universities…

“He was just a cycle ahead of himself on the issue of immigration,” Whetsell said. “Running for president is a two-year learning curve. Now he’s got the perspective of what it takes to run.”