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CAMPAIGN 2012

Perry announces he’ll run for president

Texas governor has broad appeal for Republicans

Rick Perry’s announcement was not a surprise, but he has catching up to do with the rest of the GOP field. Rick Perry’s announcement was not a surprise, but he has catching up to do with the rest of the GOP field. (David J. Phillip/Associated Press)
By April Castro
Associated Press / August 12, 2011

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AUSTIN, Texas - Governor Rick Perry is running for president, a spokesman confirmed yesterday, a move certain to shake up the race for the GOP nomination, much to the delight of many conservatives looking for a candidate to embrace.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the Texas governor would make his intentions known tomorrow while visiting South Carolina and New Hampshire, just as most of his presidential rivals compete in a test vote in Iowa.

Official word of Perry’s entrance into the race came yesterday a few hours before eight candidates, including GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, were scheduled to appear at a nationally televised debate.

It was not much of a surprise. The longest-serving governor in Texas history has flirted with a presidential run since spring and has spent the past few months courting Republicans in early voting states and laying the groundwork for a campaign. He met privately with potential donors from California to New York and gave rousing speeches to party faithful, casting himself as a fiscally responsible social conservative.

His intentions became even clearer over the past few days, when officials disclosed that he would visit an important trio of states, a campaign-like schedule timed to overshadow the debate and the Iowa straw poll and, perhaps, wreak havoc on a field led by Romney.

Perry’s nascent presidential campaign is not expected to rest after this weekend’s launch. Representative Frank Guinta of New Hampshire, a Republican, confirmed that he is scheduled to meet privately with Perry on Wednesday. He also confirmed a separate meeting with the first-in-the-nation-primary state’s only Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte.

Neither has decided whom to endorse but both have been courted heavily by the presidential field.

Unlike most others in the race, Perry has credibility with the at-times warring camps of the GOP’s primary electorate. The probusiness tax-cutter who has presided over Texas’ recent economic growth is also a devout social conservative with deep ties with some of the nation’s evangelical leaders and with Christians who dominate the pivotal Iowa caucuses.

But Perry has never run a national campaign before, and it is unclear whether his Texas swagger and sometimes unorthodox policy positions will sit well with GOP primary voters outside the South. Another open question is whether he can raise the money necessary to mount a strong campaign against those who have been in the race for months.

He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

Within the Republican Party, Perry has foes among moderates who question his understanding of national and international policy, including Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who ran against him for governor in a bitter 2010 primary race.

An early adopter of Tea Party rhetoric, Perry even has some opponents in the movement. They complain he hasn’t taken strong enough stances on state spending and illegal immigration, in part because as governor Perry signed a law making Texas the first state to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

But before he starts pumping up supporters and wooing detractors, Perry will need to raise name recognition outside of Texas and conservative circles, as well as fill a presidential campaign coffer. None of the money he has raised for Texas elections can be used in a national race, so he is starting from scratch.

The governor lags well behind previously announced candidates in both campaign workers and fund-raising, mostly because he denied any interest in the presidency until late May.

But the story he tells of having no interest in higher office until friends and family persuaded him to join the race adds to his carefully cultivated image as a Texas cowboy reluctantly riding into Washington to save the day.

The campaign will attempt to position Perry between the moderate Romney and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Tea Party favorite.

Perry, who has been governor for 11 years, has highlighted his business-friendly job-creation skills in Texas as evidence of fiscal wisdom, giving him a chance to drain support from Romney, whose conservative record is burdened by the health care plan he backed as governor of Massachusetts.

Social conservatives already support Perry in numbers equal to Bachmann, who has never held an executive office and who some Republicans consider too far right to beat President Obama.

In polls conducted before he joined the race, Perry was in a statistical tie with Bachmann and within striking distance of Romney.

Perry is a full-throated critic of both Democratic and Republican politics in Washington, advocating a weaker federal government with smaller entitlement programs and greater states’ rights. He recently signed a pledge to cut spending, place a cap on future government expenses, and balance the budget.

Texas has fared better than most states during the recession, though it has the highest rate of uninsured residents and among the poorest populations in the country.

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