ADDISON, Texas (AP) – Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry opened his second bid for the Republican presidential nomination Thursday, pledging to “end an era of failed leadership” and hoping this campaign will go better than his last one.
The longest-serving governor in Texas history when he left office in January, Perry made his announcement inside a steamy hangar at an airfield outside Dallas, in the company of fellow veterans and a hulking cargo plane like the one he flew for the Air Force.
Perry vowed to help the country rise above its slow economic recovery. During Perry’s last seven years in office, Texas created 1.5 million new jobs.
“I have been tested,” Perry said. “I have led the most successful state in America.”
In a nod to the tea party, he said: “Our rights come from God, not from government.”
This time, Perry is a decided underdog who has been visiting early voting states for months, hoping to convince voters he deserves another chance.
In 2012, he announced late, surged in the polls but wilted amid a series of gaffes. He’s still trying to live down the “oops” he sheepishly uttered in a brain-freeze moment during a debate in the 2012 race when he forgot one of the federal agencies he’d vowed to close as president.
Perry was a ferocious fundraiser before, but his coffers could be hurt this time by two felony indictments he’s facing in Austin.
A grand jury indicted him on abuse of power and coercion after he publicly threatened – then carried out – a veto of state funding for public corruption prosecutors. That followed the Democratic head of the unit rebuffing Perry’s calls to resign after her arrest for drunken driving.
Perry says the case against him is purely political, but he’s been unable to get it dismissed on constitutional grounds – and may eventually have to pause campaigning to appear in court.
In his speech, Perry savaged the Obama administration for Iraq’s decline after U.S. combat troops left, for what he sees as a flawed nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran and for an insecure border with Mexico.
“A lot of candidates will say the right things,” Perry said. “We need a president who has done the right things.”
According to Perry: “We’re at the end of an era of failed leadership.”
Texas’ white-hot job growth was fueled by an oil-and-gas boom, but Perry said his keeping taxes low, restricting regulation and curbing civil litigation awards helped. Perry also distributed millions in state funds, hoping to lure top job creators to Texas – sometimes with few new jobs to show for it.
Perry is playing up his military experience in a GOP field that has few veterans. His announcement featured many well-known veterans, including Marcus Luttrell, a longtime Perry friend and the only survivor of a four-man team attacked in Afghanistan. Luttrell’s story was featured in the 2013 film “Lone Survivor.”
Perry’s launch was somewhat overshadowed Thursday by confirmation that top-tier prospect Jeb Bush also will run, bringing the Republican presidential field to 11.
One rival, fellow Texan Ted Cruz, welcomed Perry to the race as “a friend and patriot.”
Perry, though, indirectly swiped at senators such as Cruz and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as others in the race with little or no executive experience. “Leadership is not a speech on the Senate floor,” he said.
From Texas, Perry soon plans to head back to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina – early voting states where he has already been active.
He’s hoping the on-the-ground politicking proves more sustainable this time than the early sizzle last time.
“He’s kind of been freed up to be Rick Perry again,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas political consultant and veteran of tea party-backed FreedomWorks. “That’s going to give him a lot of freedom to do what he does best, which is talk to voters one on one, shake hands.
Perry, he said, “shouldn’t feel the need to start out trying to be larger than life.”