Texas Abuzz About Possible Perry-Cruz 2016 Battle

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -

Two Texans, one White House. Is the 2016 Republican campaign trail big enough?

After plummeting from prime contender to political punchline three years ago, Gov. Rick Perry has spent months gearing up for a second run. And he’s turned his recent indictment on felony abuse-of-power charges into a campaign rallying cry.

But even as Perry works to convince conservatives that he’ll be better at coping with the national spotlight this time, he’s increasingly bumping up against his state’s junior senator, tea party darling Ted Cruz, whose firebomb approach on Capitol Hill has grassroots activists clamoring for him to make a White House run.

The prospect of a two-Texan presidential tilt is dominating political conversation in the state, even outshining a fiercely contested governor’s race — and starting to get noticed nationally. Perry’s preparations have long been obvious, while Cruz is working to raise his profile beyond just the far-right base and insert himself into the presidential conversation.

Asked about the 2016 prospects of both, Jim DeMint, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, replied, “I think Cruz even more than Perry right now.”

Though he’s not endorsing either yet, DeMint added, “Ted has become really the national conservative leader.”

Cruz and Perry, along with potential presidential rival Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, are addressing this weekend’s national gathering of Americans for Prosperity, the powerful group backed by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers. Cruz has made himself the star of such events, sometimes introduced as “our next president.”

Two Texans haven’t competed for the presidency since George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot in 1992.

“I think they’re both running. They probably don’t like me saying it,” said Texas Republican Party chairman Steve Munisteri, who noted that Texas’ March 1 presidential primary in 2016 should make it the first to vote among large states, and could leave only one Texan standing.

Both, meanwhile, would be competing at least to start for the same slice of the Republican base, the religious and social conservatives energized by an intense mistrust of President Barack Obama.