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Rick Perry hits the road

By By Ashley Killough CNN
Published On: Aug 20 2014 02:03:46 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 20 2014 04:29:42 AM CDT
Texas Gov Rick Perry

REUTERS/Chris Keane

(CNN) -

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to be in court on Friday, but he won't be there. Instead, he'll be testing the waters for a possible presidential run.

Three days after being fingerprinted and having his mug shot taken following his indictment, Perry will begin a series of visits to critical presidential nominating states - a strong indication that the Texas Republican won't let felony charges get in the way of his political ambition.

"The governor is not required to appear on Friday and will maintain his previously scheduled events," said Perry spokesman Lucy Nashed.

Perry heads to New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state, on Friday for a six-stop tour. On his itinerary is a Manchester event hosted by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity as well as a state GOP rally in Stratham.

He'll be in South Carolina, the first-in-the-South primary state, the following week where he'll take in a big football game between his alma mater, Texas A&M, and the University of South Carolina.

Then Perry continues his tour of appealing to key conservatives when he joins other potential presidential contenders, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, at an AFP summit in Dallas.

His aggressive travel schedule comes as Perry enters the final stretch of his third full term in Austin. Perry isn't running for re-election, and it's widely expected he'll continue laying groundwork for a possible second run for president once he leaves his perch in January.

Perry was indicted last week on counts alleging coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. The charges relate to his handling of a political controversy involving a county prosecutor.

The case centers on Perry's veto in June 2013 of $7.5 million approved by the Legislature to fund a public integrity unit run by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat. He wanted her out, following a drunk-driving arrest. She refused to leave.

"I'm going to enter this courthouse with my head held high knowing that the actions I took were not only lawful and legal but right," Perry told reporters.

Perry and his team of lawyers are framing the indictment as a political attack, and they've been successful in drawing up support from Republicans.

Even David Axelrod, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama, called the charges "pretty sketchy."

Dante Scala, political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said Perry may get a bit of a boost from the attention as he hits the road.

But she argued that the Texas Republican still has a lot of work to do to repair damage from his last presidential bid.

"Conservatives might be willing to say he's a victim of partisan politics, but that doesn't mean he's a much better candidate than they already thought," Scala said. "That was the problem before his indictment and it's the problem after his indictment."

There's no frontrunner in the 2016 GOP primary, with no potential candidates polling about 20% in recent surveys.

A McClatchy/Marist poll conducted this month before the indictment showed that 7% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents backed Perry.

None of the 10 candidates asked about in the poll surpassed the 13% mark, and 23% of respondents were undecided.

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