In my judgment Gov. Rick Perry will announce for President this summer. When Perry declares, he immediately vaults into the top tier of Republican candidates. Nate Silver of the New York Times rates Perry in the first tier today even before he is an announced candidate.
I view the race for the Republican nomination as having three category leaders today: The establishment frontrunner -- Romney; the establishment alternative to Romney -- Pawlenty; and the TEA Party/social conservative candidate -- Perry and Bachmann. As a southern governor with a strong economic record and message to run on, Perry should be able to power past Bachmann. As the most polished political orator on the Republican side today, Perry will outshine Pawlenty. I could easily see the race for the Republican nomination coming down to Romney and Perry.
Even though it appears that Perry will run for President, Lt. Governor Dewhurst still intends to run for the U.S. Senate in my opinion. When he declares, he will be the immediate frontrunner and may ultimately clear the field on the Republican side. No other Republican can approach Dewhurst's name identification or wealth. That is why you are seeing Republicans exit the Senate primary: Michael Williams is now running Congressional District 33 in North Texas; Roger Williams is soon to follow him into the congressional race; and Sen. Dan Patrick will not enter if Dewhurst is in the race. Tom Leppert will find it tough to race money with Dewhurst in the contest, and Ted Cruz will begin to recognize the financial and name identification mountain he faces. In fact, it would not surprise me for Ted Cruz to ultimately not make the race and instead wait and run for an open Attorney General seat in 2014.
Once Perry runs for President, I believe it highly unlikely that he will run for Governor again in 2014 if he is not elected President. This will cause the cascade of Republican dominoes we thought was going to happen in 2010. In 2014 Abbott will run unopposed for the Republican gubernatorial nomination; Combs, Staples and Patterson will square off for the Lieutenant Governor nomination; Cruz and possibly Dan Branch will compete for Attorney General in the Republican primary; and there will be wide open contests for State Comptroller, Land Commissioner and Agriculture Commissioner on the Republican side. It is going to be very expensive for Texas Republican donors over the next three and one-half years!