By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, July 7 (Reuters) - Texas Governor Rick Perry, the nation's longest-serving governor and a failed contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, planned to announce Monday whether he will seek re-election next year.
Perry, 63, is best known nationally for his poor performance as a Republican candidate for the White House. During a debate in November 2011, he famously forgot the government departments he would abolish if he were elected to the White House and dropped out of the race a few weeks later.
Perry has set a 1 p.m. news conference Monday in San Antonio to make what was billed as an important announcement.
Asked on "Fox News Sunday" whether a presidential run is in the cards, Perry said: "Well, certainly, that's an option out there, but, again, we got a lot of work to do in this building right behind me over the course of the next couple of weeks that have my focus substantially more than even 2014 or 2016."
The timing of his announcement comes shortly after he rehired his former presidential campaign communications director Mark Miner, and as Perry is locked in a heated battle with Texas Democrats over restrictions on abortion.
"In Texas, the road to the governor's office goes straight through the Republican primary electorate," said Mark P. Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston. "Right now, Perry retains very strong support among Republican primary voters."
Perry is motivated to overcome his embarrassing national stumble, Jones said. Perry and his consultants later blamed the debate gaffe on pain from a recent back surgery.
"Pundits and liberals and Perry opponents care far more about the 'oops moment' than do voters in the Republican primary," Jones said. "As long as he does well on the campaign trail."
Perry took office in December 2000 after then-Texas Governor George W. Bush was declared winner of the disputed presidential election over Democrat Al Gore. Perry was elected to a full term in 2002, and re-elected 2006 and 2010.
If he runs for a fourth four-year term, Perry may face what is known around Texas as "Perry fatigue." Perry is already by far the longest serving governor in Texas history, and a recent poll by the Democratic-leaning PPP polling group indicated that 60 percent of Texans don't want him to run for governor again.
A poll by Rasmussen Reports last week showed Perry running sixth among Texas Republicans for president in 2016. The leader among Texas Republicans is Ted Cruz, Texas' junior U.S. senator.
Perry brushed aside those concerns on "Fox News Sunday."
"You know, polls are polls. As a matter of fact, I think it was four years ago that showed us 25 points down to a sitting U.S. senator," Perry said.
Perry defeated Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who was considered the most popular politician in Texas, by 22 points to win the Republican primary in the 2010 governor's race.
Perry also is embroiled in a battle over abortion restrictions that made State Senator Wendy Davis a national figure and likely Democratic candidate for governor in 2014.
Democratic Party consultant Jason Stanford said the uproar over Davis may sway the governor, who opposes abortion.
"Before Wendy Davis became a national star, people weren't giving Rick Perry good odds of running for re-election," Stanford said. "Everybody assumed he would go off into the sunset and get ready to run for president... Now it looks like he's spoiling for a fight." (Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin and Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Greg McCune, Barbara Goldberg, Doina Chiacu)