CHARLESTON, S.C. — Declaring that it is “time to get America working again,” Gov. Rick Perry officially declared his presidential candidacy Saturday, telling a crowd in this key primary state that he will run to challenge President Obama in 2012.
In front of a crowd of 600 at the Francis Marion Hotel, Perry used his first speech as a candidate to brag about job creation in Texas under his leadership and argued he could dramatically improve the American economy if elected president.
“I do not accept the path that America is on…Because a renewed nation needs a renewed president,” Perry told the cheering crowd, declaring that it was “time to give a pink slip to the current White House.”
“I declare to you today as a candidate for president of the United States of America,” the he added.
Perry’s speech, coming on the same day Republicans in Ames, Iowa, will cast the first votes of the GOP nomination contest, is the start of a campaign launch that includes a stop in New Hampshire later Saturday and then several days of events in the Hawkeye State starting Sunday.
“In reality, though, this is just the most recent downgrade,” Perry said, referring to the first-ever recent drop in the country’s credit rating. “The fact is for nearly three years, President Obama has been downgrading American jobs, he's been downgrading our standing in the world, he's been downgrading our financial stability, he's been downgrading confidence and downgrading the hope of a better future for our children.”
Shortly afterwards, Obama’s re-election campaign released a response to Perry’s speech, calling the governor’s portrayal of Texas’s economic success a “tall tale.”
“Governor Perry’s economic policies are a carbon copy of the economic policies of Washington Republicans,” said campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt. “In a Republican field that has already pledged allegiance to the Tea Party and failed to present any plan that will benefit the middle class or create the jobs America needs to win the future, Governor Perry offers more of the same.”
The event was unusual, as Perry opted against the traditional approach of announcing in the city in which you live or were raised. Instead, the Texas governor spoke to an audience of party activists from across the country who came here for RedState’s annual event.
Originally, only 300 people were expected to attend the conference, but a crowd of nearly double that squeezed into a ballroom here to watch Perry speak.
Perry introduced his wife, Anita, and spoke briefly about his childhood in Paint Creek, Texas, a town so small that he joked that it doesn’t have a Zip code. He also highlighted his service as an Air Force pilot.
But the speech was largely an aggressive attack on Obama and a pledge to take the anti-tax, anti-regulation policies Perry has implemented in Texas and bring them to the rest of the nation.
Perry’s late entrance into the 2012 race thrusts into an already-crowded Republican field a candidate with the potential to win the GOP primary, even though some of his rivals have a substantial headstart. While Perry was not drafted, conservative activists lobbied for his candidacy in part because of dissatisfaction with the current field.
His candidacy could solidify the Republican field, which has been unsettled for months as a series of figures from Donald Trump to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels have flirted but ultimately opted against running. 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin says she is still considering a candidacy, but has made little effort to build the kind of operation that would be required to run.
The governor’s speech had a sharp, anti-Washington tone. He cast the Obama administration as “central planners” bent on controlling every aspect of American life and promising to work “every day to make Washington, D.C., [as] inconsequential in your life as I possibly can.”
“Washington is not our caretaker,” Perry declared, adding, “In America, the people are not subjects of the government, the government is subject to the people.”
Like other GOP candidates, Perry attacked Obama for increasing the deficit, proposing to raise taxes on upper-income Americans and pushing through health care legislation that Perry promised to repeal.
"We cannot afford four more years of this rudderless leadership," he said.
The governor of the nation’s second-largest state for 11 years, Perry enters the campaign with a host of advantages: a strong fundraising base, popularity with both tea party and religious conservatives and job growth in Texas under his leadership even as the national economy continues to struggle.