The Magazine

A Texan Takes Manhattan

With Gov. Rick Perry in New York.

Jul 1, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 40 • By FRED BARNES
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During Perry’s three days in New York, I joined him for most of his meetings, dinners, and speeches. Up close, Perry isn’t quite what I expected. He often notes he majored in animal science in college, but his interests have broadened as governor. He’s learned a lot about brain science. He knows a good deal about economics. After back surgery last year, he had to give up his cowboy boots. “My feet are happy,” he told Forbes. He made a point of being photographed under a storefront sign near Times Square. “Going Out of Business. Everything Must Go,” it read.

At one dinner, he sat next to Mark Teixeira, the Yankees first baseman who may run for office when his baseball days are over. Perry offered a piece of advice. “Mark, everybody loves you now,” Perry said. “You’re one of the best first basemen of all time. But the moment you announce, either as a Democrat or a Republican, half of those people are going to hate you.”

Perry had three goals for his trip. He succeeded, partially anyway, on two. In time, he may on the third. The first was to attract businesses to Texas. Perry insists it takes nine months from his pitch to a company’s decision to move. So we’ll have to wait on that. But Perry says he expects to hear this summer that an untold number of California companies are Texas-bound.

The second goal was to stir a national debate on “blue state versus red states policies.” Perry thinks he’s set this in motion and he may have. It should shine a favorable light on the Texas model of low taxes, light regulation, and less litigation—small government that works.

Perry didn’t acknowledge the third goal. It was a test of his skill as a potential presidential candidate after his disastrous performance in last year’s race for the Republican nomination. He says he “parachuted” into that campaign both too late and unprepared. He knows better now.

He passed this preliminary test with ease. His speech comparing the roaring economy of Texas to that of other states was impressive. I heard him deliver it to three separate groups. There were no uncomfortable moments or glitches. What’s significant is that he has a positive, upbeat message. Most Republicans don’t.

But it will take months of gaffe-free speeches and TV appearances to begin to overcome the legacy of 2012. His “oops” moment—when he forgot in a televised debate the third federal agency he would abolish—lives on. Before he arrived in Chicago, Mayor Emanuel said, “I hope when he comes he remembers all three of his reasons for coming.”

Wherever Perry went in New York, the same question was asked. Will he run and for what office? Perry is the longest-serving governor in Texas history, 13 years and counting. He’ll soon announce, possibly this week, if he intends to seek another term in 2014. My guess is he won’t.

But there are strong hints Perry will run again for president. He says candidates do better the second time. His speeches are geared to a national audience. So is his message. In Jeff Miller, he has a strategist he trusts. And he’s from a big state.

While running for president, “You find out so much about yourself,” Perry says. “Some of it is even true.” In 2012, a reporter discovered Perry is a distant relative of Sam Houston, the fifth Texas governor. Perry recalled this fondly, as if he’s ready to discover what a presidential bid in 2016 would bring.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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