DALLAS -- On-again, off-again presidential candidate Ross Perot said last night he would make a decision in a "few days" about whether he would reactivate his bid for the White House.
There had been widespread speculation that Mr. Perot would make his intentions known today after meetings in Dallas with his volunteers and with delegations from the Bush and Clinton campaigns.
However, as the Texas billionaire headed into an informal gathering with the state coordinators of his political movement last night, he indicated that a decision about his candi- dacy would not be immediately forthcoming.
The state coordinators "will have to go back and brief their people," Mr. Perot told reporters.
Mr. Perot maintains that he will take his direction from the state coordinators -- many of whom are now on his campaign payroll -- after they have time to talk with supporters in their states.
"Whatever the people want me to do, we'll do," he said.
The one-time presidential candidate plans two national television appearances today, on NBC's "Today" program this morning and on Cable News Network's "Larry King Live" tonight. In between, he will attend a pair of closed-door meetings in which high-ranking officials of the Bush and Clinton campaigns will make pitches to his state coordinators.
Representing President Bush will be campaign chairman Robert Teeter, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, Texas Sen. Phil Gramm and, tentatively, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack F. Kemp and New Mexico Sen. Pete V. Domenici.
Gov. Bill Clinton's campaign is sending chairman Mickey Kantor, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff William J. Crowe Jr., Oklahoma Sen. David L. Boren, former Urban League head Vernon Jordan, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, New York financier Felix Rohatyn and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.
Each campaign will have two hours to try to persuade the Perot supporters that their candidate's plan is closer to what the Texas businessman has in mind. Under a schedule arranged by the Perot campaign, the Clinton team will make its case first.
Mr. Perot and his followers are particularly interested in hearing the Republican and Democratic plans for reducing the federal budget deficit.
Reduction of the deficit has been a central tenet of Mr. Perot's formula for economic recovery. And last week he said that he was reconsidering his candidacy because he feels Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton have not addressed the issue.
Former Rep. John B. Anderson, who waged an unsuccessful third-party presidential candidacy in 1980, called the meeting nothing more than "a dog-and-pony show." He said in a weekend television interview that the sessions were contrived to allow Mr. Perot to resurrect his candidacy.
John Bishop, the New Mexico state coordinator, said it was "a historic occasion" that the two major parties were coming to meet with them. He said the state leaders would take the information back home, poll their volunteers and make a decision later in the week on whether Mr. Perot should re-enter the presidential race.
The fact that both major-party nominees have dispatched high-level aides to the Perot meetings is a sign of his potential to generate considerable uncertainty in the race just five weeks before Election Day.
Recent polls show Mr. Perot drawing support from both Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton, but Mr. Clinton maintains a strong lead over the president even when Mr. Perot is taken into account.
Since pulling out of the race in mid-July, Mr. Perot's standing with the public has nose-dived. Almost half of the electorate now view him unfavorably, according to a CBS News survey last week, a far more negative opinion than they have of either major-party nominee.
But Mr. Perot draws strongly enough in states such as Texas, his home, where he could receive enough votes to influence the outcome of the election.
When he quit the race, Mr. Perot said he didn't think he could win and did not want to be a disruptive force to the election process. Last week, however, he said the decision to downgrade his candidacy was "a mistake."
Despite becoming inactive as a candidate, he has continued to spend millions of his own money to earn a place on the ballot in all 50 states. He maintains that he would have to become an active candidate in order to air TV commercials promoting his austere economic plan, which is also the subject of his No. 1 best-selling paperback.