By the end of it, Rick Perry was sweating like a rodeo clown trying to outrun an angry bull. A native Texan and the longest serving governor in the history of the Lone Star State should know better than to make a speech in a coat and tie, in June, in an airplane hangar.
Perspiring on television, after all, once caused a Californian named Richard Nixon to lose a presidential debate – and the subsequent election – to a cool customer named John F. Kennedy. And Perry found out four years ago what dropping the ball on national TV can do to a presidential campaign.
On the other hand, Perry’s speech in the Dallas suburb of Addison officially announcing his second run for president provided a stirring start to a campaign that most people who follow these things expect to stall out faster than a Ford Focus on a flooded Texas highway. The onetime Texas A&M yell leader sounded for all the world like a man who could lead the Republican Party to victory in 2016, singing the praises of economic growth, individual freedom and American leadership in the world.
“We have the power to make things new again,” he declared. “To project American strength again, to get our economy going again.”
Perry blasted government regulation and “unspeakable debt,” and latched onto a favorite issue of Democrats, income inequality.
“The American people see a rigged game, where insiders get rich, and the middle class pays the tab,” he said. “There is something wrong when the Dow is near record highs, and businesses on Main Street can’t even get a loan.”
He recalled the glories of America’s past and called for hope in the future.
“The reason I am running for president is I know for certain that our country’s best days lie ahead,” Perry said. “There is nothing wrong in America today that cannot be fixed with new leadership.”
In a year when Republicans are coming out of the woodwork to run for president and most of them are proclaiming themselves the rightful heirs to Ronald Reagan’s legacy of national pride and optimism, Perry actually sounded like the Gipper as he laid out his rationale for once again embarking on the road to the White House.
For a candidate who turned himself into a national joke by blurting “Oops” when he bungled a debate question in 2011, Perry looked like the real deal June 4 in Addison – sweat-soaked white shirt and all.
Those of us who tuned in expecting to watch Perry fall on his face, again – and that would be just about everyone outside his immediate circle of friends and family, I’m guessing – were shocked to see a candidate who just might be ready to give the other 10-and-counting GOP hopefuls a run for their money. Oops.
Bill Thompson is news editor for Fort Worth Business. Contact him at email@example.com