Washington (CNN) – Rick Perry, the Texas governor and erstwhile Republican presidential contender, played host on Tuesday night to more than a dozen well-connected New Hampshire politicos – his latest effort to woo GOP power brokers as he plots a repeat bid for the White House in 2016.
The confab, held over dinner at the governor’s mansion in Austin, was organized by Republican operative Mike Dennehy, Perry’s man-on-the-ground in New Hampshire, and included several business leaders and Republican activists from the nation’s first primary state.
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"The governor frequently hosts dinners at his residence with leaders from Texas and around the country,” said Jeff Miller, one of Perry’s top political advisers. “Last night’s dinner was an opportunity to visit with leaders from New Hampshire to discuss national issues such as the economy and job creation and how policies in the states will drive the economic resurgence in America, not one-size-fits-all policies coming from Washington.”
Miller and another confidante, Henry Barbour, accompanied Perry to the dinner. Among the attendees: former Rep. Frank Guinta, who's running for his old congressional seat, New Hampshire GOP Vice-Chairman J.P. Marzullo, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn, investor Fred Tausch and real estate developers Dan and Renee Plummer.
It’s not the first time Perry has invited well-connected Republicans to Texas for a charm offensive as he works to repair his national image in the wake of his disastrous 2012 campaign. Perry has attributed his poor showing in that race – highlighted by several off-key debate performances – to lingering pain from a major back surgery and his lack of preparation for the grueling rigors of national campaign.
This time, Perry is starting early in hopes of avoiding the same mistakes.
His aides have invited a slew of donors and elected officials to Austin over the last year for face-time with Perry, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, key Republicans from the primary state of South Carolina, and members of his 2012 campaign committee. The governor, who declined last year to seek another term as governor but maintains a leading role in the Republican Governors Association, is also keeping up a robust national travel schedule, meeting with potential financial supporters in the process.
He’s in Iowa this week campaigning for Branstad, up for re-election this year, and Senate candidate Matt Whitaker, one of his backers from the last presidential race. After a vigorous campaign in Iowa, Perry finished a disappointing fourth in the 2012 caucuses. Perry barely contested New Hampshire – and garnered barely 1% of the vote in the primary before dropping out of the race in South Carolina.
His meeting Tuesday signals an intent to take the notoriously fickle Granite State more seriously if he runs again.
“While the Governor made no commitments on a possible presidential run in 2016, he made it clear that if he does decide to run he will be prepared this time,” Miller said.
Other dinner guests Tuesday included conservative activist Shannon McGinley, attorneys Bryan Gould and John Lyons, Manchester school board member Robin Dunphy, state Senate candidate Howard Pearl, and Paul Chevalier, a plugged-in member of New Hampshire’s veterans community.