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Rick Perry Sets His Course

6:30 PM, Jul 8, 2013 • By FRED BARNES
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Now that he’s not seeking another term as Texas governor, Rick Perry says he has a year to decide whether to run for president in 2016.  And he’ll be highly visible across the country while he’s making up his mind.

Rick Perry photo portrait, August 28, 2004

Perry has touted the Texas economic model – low taxes, minimal regulations, laws to bar too many lawsuits – in California, Illinois, and New York in recent months.  He intends to “tell the story” in states with high taxes and stagnant economies, Perry says.  “Blue state governors will probably get some visits from me.”

A great debate between economically vibrant red states and hard pressed blue states “is going to occur over the next few years,” he says.  Since he won’t be running for governor in 2014, he plans to be a major player in that debate.

In a speech in San Antonio, Perry announced his decision to step down as governor after a record 14 years in office.  “Any future considerations I will announce in due time, as I arrive at any decisions,” he said. “But my focus will remain on Texas.”

Texas is also the main subject of the message he carries to other states.  “We have created the strongest economy in the nation,” he said in his speech.  “Texas is the new frontier for opportunity and innovation in America today.”

Perry’s out-of-state trips have prompted speculation about a second presidential bid in 2016.  He’s also been willing to talk about what went wrong when he ran in 2012 and did poorly.  Plus, Perry has a new senior political adviser, Jeff Miller, a longtime friend who moved from California to Austin, Texas, last December.

In his forays this year, Perry has attracted considerable media attention.  The Democratic governors of the states he visited complained grumpily about this visit and his free-market message.  Perry was unfazed and the attacks tended to increase the visibility of his visit. 

If he runs for president again, Perry will have to overcome his performance in 2012, which the media keeps reminding him.  The Associated Press, in its story about Perry’s decision not to seek another term as governor, described him in the first paragraph as “the longest-serving governor in Texas history who famously muttered ‘oops’ after forgetting during a 2011 presidential debate the third of three federal departments he’d pledged to close.”

Perry told me he’s learned two lessons from his earlier race. One is that it takes two years to wage a successful presidential campaign.  The other is not to have major surgery just before entering the race.  In 2011, Perry had back surgery six weeks before announcing for president.

That means a Perry presidential effort would have to begin in late 2014, leaving him a year to make up his mind and prepare for a national campaign.

In the meantime, his gubernatorial decision opens the way for Texas attorney general Greg Abbott to run in 2014.  Abbott, a leader among Republican state attorneys general, has already raised millions in campaign funds.

Perry suggested that Texas will be fine after he leaves as governor.  “I think we’ve set in play a dynamic that will keep Texas at the top of the heap,” he told me in an interview.  “The idea I have to stay and guide the state … is a bit out of the realm of reality.  The blueprint is there.  The check list is in play.”

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