Rick Perry (Credit: Getty Images)
Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to announce Monday plans for his political future, leaving open the question of whether he'll seek an unprecedented fourth term next year or try again to seek the White House.
Perry, 63, is already the longest-serving governor in Texas history and has been the Lone Star state's chief executive since December 2000 when George W. Bush left to become president. Perry's departure would set up the biggest political shuffle in Texas since he took office.
The Republican was coy during an appearance on Fox News Sunday about his future, saying only that another presidential bid was "an option out there." He also said his attention is more focused now on a special session of the Texas Legislature, as lawmakers consider a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy that would also close most of the state's abortion clinics.
Perry will announce his plans at a Caterpillar dealership of a top supporter in San Antonio.
For much of the nation, Perry is known for his ill-fated White House bid last year. Once considered a top conservative alternative to eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Perry briefly was leading in early public opinion polls but faltered quickly.
His "oops" moment during a televised debate, in which he forgot the name of the third federal agency he wanted to eliminate, solidified for many that Perry wasn't ready for the White House. The Texan dropped out of the 2012 race ahead of the South Carolina primary.
Perry poked fun at his own debate gaffe on late-night TV and mocked his own candidacy during a speech last year. "The weakest Republican field in history - and they kicked my butt," Perry joked at the Gridiron Club dinner.
Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Perry "loves to keep people guessing" but noted the signs are there that the governor will not run again for his current job in 2014. Making another presidential run, Jillson told USA TODAY, is an entirely different enterprise.
"If he plans to run for president again, he needs to be free of the governor's office so he can give his full attention to putting together a top-flight campaign team and prepare himself substantively, especially on foreign policy and national security issues," Jillson said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, viewed as an up-and-coming Republican, has been making moves as though he is running for governor. He recently released a video, narrated by former senator-TV actor Fred Thompson, introducing himself to voters - even though Abbott has won statewide elections five times. Abbott also has amassed $18 million in campaign funds.