Rick Perry Fires Up GOP Voters in New Orleans

Gov. Rick Perry, who has acknowledged thinking about running for president in 2012, fired up Republican voters Saturday in New Orleans, where conservative activists were anxious to hear a game plan for beating Barack Obama.

“There’s a party in New Orleans!” Perry shouted when he took to the stage before a boisterous crowd in the ballroom at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel, where the Republican Leadership Conference wraps up Saturday night. Texas first lady Anita Perry and aides were watching the speech near the stage.

The longest-serving Texas governor stuck to the familiar anti-Washington attacks and his belief that Texas is leading the nation in job creation. Perry said the Obama administration “clearly believes that government is not only the answer to every need but it’s the most qualified to make essential decisions for every American in every area.”

“That mix of of arrogance and audacity that guides the Obama administration is an affront to every freedom-loving American and a threat to every private sector job in this country,” he said.

Perry did not compete in a straw poll put on by the conference. Another Texan, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Surfside, won the non-binding contest hands down.

Paul's win wasn’t the only news made at the Saturday gathering. Before Perry spoke, an Obama impersonator caused a stir by making racially tinged jokes. An event organizer finally had to yank the impersonator, identified in press reports as Reggie Brown, off the stage.

During his remarks, which elicited laughter from the crowd, the impersonator made fun of the fact that Obama had a black father and white mother, joking that first lady Michelle Obama celebrates Black History Month for the “full month.”

“I celebrate half,” he said. The impersonator, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the president, also said that his mother “loved a black man” but was “not a Kardashian.”

Perry was not in the ballroom when the impersonator was speaking and was not listening to it; before the speech, Perry had a meet-and-greet with Mississippi Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and later attended a fundraiser for the Louisiana Republican Party, an aide said. Earlier, Perry signed copies of his Washington-bashing book Fed Up! but did not meet with reporters afterwards.

The New Orleans trip capped a week of national exposure for Perry. He was in Los Angeles at an anti-abortion rally on Sunday and spoke in New York on Monday. Perry's top strategist, Dave Carney, told the Tribune on Saturday that Perry was still "weeks away" from making a decision about running for president.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.