Perry mum on GOP debate as Texas wildfires rage

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said on CBS' "The Early Show" Tuesday that he doesn't know whether he will participate in the first Republican debate since his entry for the party's nomination for president as his state continues to battle persistent wildfires.

Perry left the campaign trail Monday and returned to Texas for the latest outbreak of blazes, which have destroyed nearly 500 homes and caused the evacuations of many residents.

Special Section: Election 2012
"No containment" of Texas wildfire

Speaking to "Early Show" anchors Erica Hill and Chris Wragge from the state capital of Austin, Perry wouldn't say whether he'd attend the Republican debate scheduled for Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

"I don't know," Perry told Wragge. "That's a fluid situation at the moment, so again I go back to we're going to be taking care of the folks here. I got a great team of people to work with. That's one of the things I've been blessed with for 10 years."

Perry announced his entrance into the race on the day of last month's Iowa Straw Poll. The Reagan library debate was to be his first time answering questions alongside other high-profile candidates such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Perry wouldn't talk about anything related to politics and specifically wouldn't respond to a question about an assessment by Bachmann's outgoing campaign manager that Perry shares frontrunner status with Romney.

"I'll be real honest with you; this is not the time to be talking about politics," Perry said. "There's another 14 months ahead to talk politics. Right now I'm substantially more focused on making sure that these people ... folks all across this state are being taken care of."

Perry has said that he expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency to arrive in Texas Wednesday. Hill asked Perry about his previously saying that FEMA needs to be effective now that the state will likely seek its assistance.

"The issue is taking care of these people right now," Perry told Hill. "We can work our way through any conversations about how to make agencies more efficient, how to make Department of Defense equipment, for instance, more available. There are a lot of issues we can talk about, but the fact of the matter is now is not the time to be trying to work out the details of how to make these agencies more efficient. Let's get people out of harm's way."

  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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