DES MOINES, Iowa — Key advisers to Texas Gov. Rick Perry are beginning to lay the groundwork for a campaign for Iowa’s leadoff GOP presidential caucuses by making inquiries about the process in case the Republican seeks the 2012 nomination.

But they caution that their preliminary planning does not indicate that the Republican has decided whether to run.

Perry’s chief consultant Dave Carney acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that he was asking questions about the political landscape, the caucus process and rules for the August Republican straw poll in Iowa.

He characterized the fact-finding as part of preparations for what would be a later entry by Perry into the race than many other candidates. Carney said the three-term governor has not determined whether he will seek national office.

Perry himself plans to start calling key Iowa Republicans after the Texas Legislature concludes its special session at the end of June, Carney said.

After months of denying that he had an interest in running for national office, Perry recently has indicated that he is weighing a presidential campaign and has been working to raise his national profile, with a series of speeches across the country.

He is scheduled to speak Saturday at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, along with several Republicans who already have entered the race. He also plans to host a national day of prayer in Houston, a move seen by GOP insiders as an obvious play to evangelicals who are an important part of the GOP base, particularly in Iowa.

“If you’re going to compete in Iowa, that’s an expensive proposition. You have to have a big field presence there. You have to spend a lot of time there. If you’re going to spend a lot of time there, you have to spend a lot of other time raising money elsewhere,” Carney told The AP. “We’re not trying to fool ourselves or anybody else.”

Until recently, Carney had been an adviser to Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. The political operative left the former House speaker’s campaign last week with most senior aides last week, a development that only stoked speculation that Perry was gearing up to enter a GOP field that’s left some Republicans underwhelmed and craving more options.

Carney, an adviser to Perry for 14 years, said he and others have sought information about the Iowa Republican Party’s presidential straw poll, an early test of popularity in Iowa. It’s scheduled for Aug. 13, now less than two months away.

“That’s a big thing we’re going to have to discuss with folks in Iowa — about the straw poll. How much time there is to be competitive,” Carney said. “All that kind of stuff are things we’re going to start putting together and compiling so the governor can make an intelligent decision.”

Several candidates have visited Iowa repeatedly, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who was making his 15th trip to the state on Saturday. Most have begun hiring staff, lining up key Republican activists and preparing for the organizationally intensive straw poll.

By contrast, Perry has not been to Iowa since the 2008 campaign when he campaigned in the state for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And don’t expect him to show up before early July. He is scheduled to undergo minor surgery to repair a back ailment on July 1, Perry’s spokeswoman said Friday.

But Carney said that won’t prevent Perry from spending time on the phone to Iowans.

“I can’t tell you if he’s talked to anyone in the 515 area code, but I know he will, well before he makes a final decision,” Carney said.