DALLAS – In an exclusive WFAA interview Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry said Attorney General Greg Abbott has told him he won't run against him in next year's GOP primary should the incumbent seek reelection.
A spokesman for Abbott's campaign issued a statement saying he wasn't familiar with any such deal, and called any speculation about the attorney general's political future "unproductive."
"Gov. Perry and Gen. Abbott are close friends, and talk frequently," wrote Abbott's spokesman Eric Bearse in the statement. "I am not going to comment on private conversations I am not privy to. General Abbott is focused on taking care of the business of Texas, and political speculation right now is unproductive. The time for politics is after the legislative session."
However, if such an agreement exists, it means Perry has a smoother path to the GOP nomination and a fourth term. He is already the state's longest-serving governor, having taken office in December, 2000.
Should Perry seek to defend his incumbency, Abbott may consider seeking another higher-profile office such as lieutenant governor, which would set up another possible battle royale against incumbent David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and others.
Perry gave his State of the State address Tuesday at The Texas Capitol regarding issues like tax relief, water and transportation spending. The political backdrop of what his plans are for reelection hung over it.
In an interview taped Wednesday for Inside Texas Politics following a speech at the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, Perry gave his usual response: "In June, I'll be making an announcement on what I'm going to do."
But he revealed later to News 8's Brad Watson and Gromer Jeffers of The Dallas Morning News that if he does run, Attorney General Greg Abbott won't enter the GOP primary.
This is despite Abbott having $18 million campaign cash on hand compared to Perry’s $6 million. And even though a source has confirmed to News 8 that Abbott has assured big donors he’ll run, the governor says he and the state’s top prosecutor have a deal.
"Greg is a dear friend," Perry said. "He has said clearly that if I ran again he's not going to be running against me. But that's beside the point."
Asked to clarify that Abbott told him he won't run if he does, Perry said, "We've had that conversation, yes."
A Public Policy Polling poll released Tuesday found an ominous future for Perry, especially if Abbott, who's not as well known among Texas voters, challenged him. The PPP survey found Abbott would run almost even with Perry in a GOP primary, trailing the incumbent 41 percent to 38 percent.
Yet, among GOP primary voters who said they're familiar with both politicians, Abbott holds a decisive lead: 55 percent to 33 percent.
Abbott, like Perry, has cultivated an active base of supporters and donors and is a tea party favorite, his reputation catapulted by his high-profile lawsuits against the Obama administration on numerous fronts.
Perry says he and Abbott still work well together, although he cautions that history can always repeat itself for those who count him out. He cites the 2010 gubernatorial race when he emerged the victor over former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, something many predicted would not occur.
“Four years ago there were people asking me these same things about Sen. Hutchison and you're 25 points behind in the polls and you know it goes on and on,” Perry said. “It will all work itself out."
And what about Perry's plans for another White House run?
"It'll work itself out, too, after 2014, I'm betting."