If President Obama wins reelection this year, Perry could run again in 2016, Sullivan suggested.

It would not be an easy prospect — the Republican field in 2016 will likely be a strong one. The list of potential 2016 candidates was already creating buzz ahead of the current election cycle and includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world Boehner throws support behind Republican who backed Trump impeachment MORE (R-Wis.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

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The decision will hinge in part on the results of the 2012 presidential election. If Gingrich becomes the Republican nominee and eventually wins the general election, Perry could be on his short list for vice president or a Cabinet position such as the Department of Agriculture, suggested Matt Mackowiak, a GOP strategist and Perry supporter.

Another run at the White House for Perry would require some major reconstruction by his team following a campaign that started strong and quickly developed into an embarrassing nosedive.

"You rarely are able to leave the race for president on your own terms, in a position to strike. That's just not the way the process works," Mackowiak said. "Has some damage been done? Probably."

Mackowiak noted that Perry's team would likely learn from their mistakes this cycle, naming Perry's two biggest mistakes as entering the race late and underestimating the importance of the debates.

He added that history is full of popular politicians who went through a rebuilding process.

"It takes renewed focus," he said. The rebuilding would likely mean Perry's return to the campaign trail utilizing his "higher national profile" stumping for others.

Perry could also run again for governor in Texas, where there are no term limits.

Mackowiak said Perry will have to make his own decision about whether his future leads to the White House or remains in Texas.

Whatever decision Perry makes about his path forward will likely be the result of private conversations with family and close friends. Sullivan told reporters that Perry's decision to drop out of the race was a done deal late Wednesday when he revealed it to top aides over hamburgers at a Wendy's fast food restaurant. Perry's decision to continue his campaign in South Carolina after a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucuses earlier in January had similar characteristics, apparently made during a run and announced without prior consultation with his aides.

Perry offered an oblique clue in his speech announcing the suspension of his presidential campaign on Thursday, declaring that he is still committed to the larger "mission" of advancing the conservative movement.

"This I know — I am not done fighting for the cause of conservatism," he said. "In fact, I have only begun to fight."