Sarah Palin and Rick Perry Friendship: Will It Stop the 'Mama Grizzly' From Running?

Their mutual fondness feeds speculation about whether she'll run.

August 22, 2011, 6:26 PM

Aug. 23, 2011 -- Rick Perry launched his presidential campaign with a headline-filled week on the stump. Sarah Palin is still undeclared, but seemingly giving it serious thought.

Her most recent move -- a video released by SarahPAC reprising her trip to the Iowa State Fair earlier this month -- looks a lot like a campaign commercial. She'll also be returning to Iowa Sept. 3 to headline a Tea Party rally.

Perry and Palin have known each other since before the 2008 election and they've both sung the other's praises over the years, but whether their relationship is close enough to stop Palin from getting into the race remains to be seen.

A Republican strategist with knowledge of Palin's thinking says they are close. "At the principal level, the relationship between Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Sarah Palin is very warm," the source said.

Their "excellent relationship" notwithstanding, the source said, there's no way it would stop the former Alaska governor from jumping in the race.

"It wouldn't stop her, certainly if she is planning on running Perry's entrance wouldn't stop her because everyone knows that as soon as she enters, she'd be a top-tier candidate," the source told ABC News.

Sources close to Palin say even her closest advisers do not know what her decision is or even whether she has made one.

The last time the two met in public was in November at an anti-abortion rally in Dallas. Both politicians echoed many of the same themes, with Palin calling the Obama administration-backed health care law "horrendous" and Perry telling an audience of several hundred that the federal government "continues to undermine the laws that prevent funding for abortions."

The two spent time together at that event, but it's unclear whether they have talked since then.

Mark Miner, a spokesman for Perry's presidential campaign, declined to say whether Palin and Perry have spoken to each other in recent weeks, saying that the campaign would not comment on the governor's private conversations.

Steve Bannon, the man behind "The Undefeated", the pro-Palin movie that details her political rise in Alaska, cautioned not to read too much into the relationship between Perry and Palin.

"I think that when you talk about friendships between any political leaders it's all, that's all overblown," Bannon said. "People are cordial and people like each other personally, but I think, particularly in a crisis like this, it's about what your program is and how your program is consistent with this core set of values.

Despite Palin's support for Perry in the past, Bannon added, Palin's history in Alaska of exposing corruption and ethics reform -- a record that is highlighted in "The Undefeated" -- might not mesh well with criticism that Perry has consistently rewarded political donors with state appointments.

"I think you can tell from her time in Alaska and what she said in the rise of the Tea Party that she is very concerned about the influence of money in politics and the issue of crony capitalism," Bannon said.

Palin spoke about Perry on both legs of her bus tour. On the first leg in Baltimore, she praised the Texas governor, saying she thought he would make a "fine candidate" and the two "have a lot in common."

Palin added, "I really like him."

On Palin's recent trip to the Iowa State Fair, just days before Perry officially got in the race, she was prodded by reporters to draw a contrast between her governing record and Perry's.

"There's two different forms of government in the state of Alaska and in the state of Texas. Alaska has a very powerful executive position. Texas, it's not as powerful," Palin said. "That doesn't mean he's doing a better job or worse job than any other governor, including myself. It just means it's different."

The next week she defended Perry and his headline-grabbing attack on the Federal Reserve in which he said that it would be "almost treasonous" for Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to increase the money supply before the 2012 election.

"More power to Rick Perry for calling it like he saw it," Palin said on Fox News last week. "And you know, he used some of that rascal type of rhetoric that he uses there in Texas and evidently the president took some issue to that.

"I just wish that President Obama would stay focused on what really matters," Palin continued. "Stay focused and quit picking on other people like Rick Perry who is just going to continue to call it like he sees it."

Unlike other political friendships, their relationship actually dates back to before the last election, although Palin did back Perry in his gubernatorial primary last year against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. She declared her support in a letter to Texas GOP women, saying her choice stays "true to conservative principles even when others think the party needs to go a different direction. I like that about him: He doesn't care which way the wind blows, he acts on his beliefs."

Palin added in the letter that Perry, "walks the walk of a true conservative. And he sticks to his guns, and you know how I feel about guns!"

And when she went to Texas to campaign for her "good friend Rick Perry" in the primary, she told the story of how Perry was the last one to wish her well before giving birth to her son, Trig, who she said was "almost born in Texas" because she was at an oil and gas conference hosted by Perry in Dallas when she went into labor.

"I finally handed Rick the mic and I said, 'You know, I think I got to go.' And he said -- he's teasing me as I'm hustling out the door, finding an exit so I can get on an airplane and get home and he says, 'Yeah, I know you're pregnant, but what are you going to do? Go and have your baby now?'

"And I mumbled as I walked out, 'Uh huh.' And I did, that evening," Palin told the crowd before Perry gave Palin a certificate making her an "honorary Texan."

Palin has steadily teased and left the door open to getting into the race, but she has also consistently said that if there was someone else who got in that represented her values and what she would bring to the race she, would not get in.

When it comes to conservative and Tea Party credentials, Perry checks most of the boxes. But critics point to a long governorship in which questions have been raised about his brushing against ethical boundaries by appointing political donors and accepting gifts, which is something that Palin has consistently made a point of fighting against.

She waged her underdog campaign for governor on pledging to "clean up" the Alaska state capital of Juneau. This is an issue she would surely bring up in a presidential campaign, despite their friendship.

It's also something Palin's most passionate supporters have picked up on. The website Conservatives4Palin, a pro-Palin site that reports on her every move, defends her and urges her to run, posted an op-ed comparing the two. Titled "The Glaring Differences Between Palin and Perry", it criticizes Perry for his decision to mandate the HPV vaccination for every sixth-grade girl. It was widely criticized at the time, the Texas state legislature overturned it, and Perry backed away from the decision just last week

It's clear for Palin's most passionate supporters -- the ones who will undoubtedly volunteer for her campaign if she get sin the race -- Perry is no substitute for their "mama grizzly."

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