Rick Perry Says Voters Want More Options in GOP Field

Texas Governor Rick Perry carries his bags off a private plane at  the San Antonio International Airport on November 1, 2010.
Texas Governor Rick Perry carries his bags off a private plane at the San Antonio International Airport on November 1, 2010.

Gov. Rick Perry, in New York for a speech that’s fueling speculation about a possible run for the White House, said Tuesday that voters seem hungry for more candidates to pick from in the presidential contest.

Perry is still undecided about his own prospects, but the explosion of interest in his potential candidacy has led the Texas governor to conclude that voters want more choices in the still-unsettled field. Perry made the remarks in a Texas Tribune interview hours before he delivers a highly anticipated keynote address at the Manhattan GOP’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

“It’s pretty interesting,” Perry said when asked about all the national political stories being written about him. “People would like to have some other options in the race, obviously.”

Perry has sparked a frenzy of speculation since telling reporters at the state Capitol on May 27 that he was “thinking about” running for president. Perry has since told reporters — and he repeated it Tuesday — that he would keep his focus on the ongoing special session before putting any serious thought into it. While some have questioned whether Perry has waited too long to launch a viable campaign, just months away from the first votes being cast in early primary and caucus states, the governor signaled that he would still have time to get in.

“There is some, I guess, drop dead time that you have to be in,” Perry said. “I don’t think it’s [arrived] yet.” After the Texas Tribune interview, Perry appeared on Fox News and said he didn't want to put a "time specific" on his decision. In a fairly wide-ranging interview with Fox's Neil Cavuto, the governor stepped up his attacks on President Barack Obama and seemed happy to entertain a discussion about his possible late entry into the GOP race.

Perry called the president "anti-job" and said the Obama Administration was using its power, on behalf of labor unions, to fight plans for a Boeing plant in South Carolina. The governor also called embattled Democratic U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner a "sick fella" but stopping just short of joining calls for him to resign. Perry said on Fox that if he were in the White House and the congressman served in his cabinet he would "likely" ask him to step down.

Perry’s comments and his recent out-of-state trips, including his appearance tonight in the Big Apple, have heightened interest, and scrutiny, about Perry jumping into the GOP presidential primary. Perry bashed Obama in Los Angeles on Sunday and his speech scheduled at the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central Station this evening had originally been a slot reserved for businessman Donald Trump, who is now out of the running.

Perry also will head to North Carolina for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, and this weekend he will hit New Orleans for a GOP event that looks a lot like a cattle call for White House hopefuls.

There’s also this: a brand new online ad, now running in first-test New Hampshire, touting the Texas governor’s efforts to whip up on Texas trial lawyers. It’s produced by Americans for Job Security, which has close ties to Perry strategist Dave Carney — one of several top staffers to bolt Newt Gingrich's hobbled presidential campaign last week. The ads were prominently displayed Monday on the front page of the New Hampshire Union Leader's online edition.

But the governor says he’s not running a stealth campaign for the White House. He says he genuinely hasn’t decided, and notes that most of his recent out-of-state trips were planned long ago.

“I have a lot of out-of-state travel that some might analyze that ‘Oh, he’s got a game plan and they’re implementing it.’ That’s not correct. There’s not a game plan,” Perry told the Tribune. “I’m giving it some thought. There are a lot of people calling and saying, 'Hey, we would like you to consider getting into the race.'”

Perry, accompanied on the New York trip by Texas first lady Anita Perry, said he was just in the initial stages of the “mental process” candidates go through before deciding whether or not to run.

“I’m nowhere near ready to say I’m giving it anything past, just, listening to what people have to say,” Perry told the Tribune. “I wouldn’t put it too far into any type of formative thought process.”

Perry did give a tiny preview of what he’ll say tonight in New York, and it will come as no shock to Texans who have followed his stump speeches over the last 18 months. He will say that Texas is leading the way economically, citing figures from Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher, who said 38 percent of the jobs created since mid-2009 were in Texas. Perry will say that the figures are actually higher.

“They’re going to hear the success story of Texas and how that model can be replicated in their state,” Perry said.

Looking to throw a bipartisan bone to the state he’s visiting, the governor will also pay tribute to New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has preached fiscal discipline, budget cutting and economic development in Albany.

“He gets it,” Perry said.

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