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Perry launches presidential bid in S.C., N.H., slamming Obama

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, greeted well-wishers in South Carolina where he joined the race for the White House. Analysts said his entry most threatens Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, greeted well-wishers in South Carolina where he joined the race for the White House. Analysts said his entry most threatens Mitt Romney’s candidacy. (Maryann Chastain/Reuters)
By Glen Johnson
Globe Staff / August 14, 2011

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GREENLAND, N.H. - Governor Rick Perry of Texas officially declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination during speeches yesterday in both South Carolina and, later, New Hampshire.

Perry pledged to improve the country’s economy, heighten its stature in the world, and repeal the federal universal health care law enacted by the Democrat he hopes to unseat, President Obama. He also promised policies that would reverse the country’s recent credit rating downgrade.

“The fact is for the three years now that President Obama has been in office, he’s been downgrading American jobs, he’s been downgrading our standing on the world, he’s been downgrading our financial stability, downgrading the hope of a better future for our children,’’ Perry told a crowd of more than 150 gathered around the pool of a Seacoast home.

“It’s time to get America working, folks, and that’s the reason I am announcing my candidacy today to be president of the United States.’’

Perry, who replaced George W. Bush as leader of Texas when Bush resigned to assume the presidency himself in 2001, repeated in New Hampshire what he said earlier during a speech to a convention of conservative bloggers in Charleston, S.C.

“I’ll work every day to try to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can,’’ he told the conservative bloggers at the RedState Gathering.

The Texan was especially harsh on Obama, saying the incumbent had an “unbridled fixation’’ with spending and his policies have extended the recession rather than solving it.

“It’s time to get America working again,’’ Perry said, noting 40 percent of the new jobs in the country since June 2009 have been in Texas. His state has an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, almost a full point below the 9.1 percent national rate.

Perry also echoed Bush’s hawkish foreign policy, pledging especially to be an unqualified ally of Israel.

“We’re going to be standing with our friends,’’ he said. “And if you are our enemy, we’re not just going to give you some lip service. If you try to hurt the United States, we will come defeat you.’’

US Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, a Democrat who has vowed to travel the country raising awareness of Perry’s record, said many of the jobs credited to the governor are minimum-wage positions or have come from his active efforts to lure businesses to Texas from higher-tax states.

“He’s not going to be able to help create jobs in this country simply by moving them around the country,’’ Doggett said during a conference call arranged by the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

Perry’s announcement came the same day Republicans gathered in Ames, Iowa, for the quadrennial Iowa Straw Poll.

Seeking to break into a crowded group of GOP contenders who have been campaigning for months and already held two nationally televised debates, Perry planned to immediately head off to Iowa after his visits to South Carolina and New Hampshire.

Perry also unveiled a polished website highlighting his background and views.

In the Granite State, he visited the home of state Representative Pam Tucker, who was among a group that recently traveled to Texas to encourage Perry to run.

“I intend to compete for every vote in every state,’’ the governor said in what could have been a subtle jab at the current GOP front-runner, Mitt Romney, who is largely bypassing Iowa. “This isn’t a strategy just to go work in a few places. We’re going to be all over the place.’’

Bush, the last Texas governor to seek the presidency, lost the 2000 New Hampshire primary by 19 points after winning the Iowa caucuses. His campaign recovered in South Carolina.

Perry tried to stroke the local audience, mentioning the Boston Bruins recent Stanley Cup win and saying: “I feel right at home amongst people whose motto is, ‘Live Free or Die.’ ’’

He added: “But you can’t live free if you’ve got a federal government that takes over one-sixth of our economy, like they’re trying to do with our health care. You can’t live free knowing your children are going to inherit a mountain of debt. You can’t live free if you don’t have the dignity of having a job or the income to take care of your family.’’

Political analysts see Perry as a particular threat to Romney. He has more governmental experience, is presiding over a state with strong job growth, and has the added resume item of military service, after serving as an Air Force pilot.

“Perry substantially changes the equation,’’ said former Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon, a longtime Texas resident. “Romney can no longer rest comfortably at the top of pack.’’

The Perry, 61, is a Methodist and avowed social conservative, opposing abortion and gay marriage. Last weekend, he convened a religious rally in Houston in a prelude to his candidacy.

While Perry lacks the millions Romney made as a venture capitalist, he has proved to be a strong fund-raiser and leads a state with 38 electoral votes - second only to California’s 55.

During the 2008 campaign, Perry did not endorse Romney, choosing instead New York’s former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and, when he dropped out, the eventual nominee, Senator John McCain.

Perry is a fifth-generation Texan from the town of Paint Creek and a graduate of Texas A&M.

Originally a Democrat, he entered the political arena in 1984 when he was elected to the Texas House. He earned a reputation as a fiscal conservative. In 1989, he switched parties and ran a year later for Texas agricultural commissioner. He ran for lieutenant governor in 1998. When Bush was elected president, Perry replaced him as governor.

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.