Texas Gov. Rick Perry just can’t seem to shut the door on a 2012 presidential run.
With conservatives aching for more choices in the approaching 2012 Republican primary, Perry declined Tuesday to rule out a White House bid during a press conference about a new anti-abortion measure. Also Tuesday, his top strategist told the Tribune that the governor is, naturally, “thinking about it” given the flattering comments made recently by some in the GOP, although he "doesn't see any change in his direction."
Perry’s remarks Tuesday were similar to a statement the governor gave to reporters last week — namely, that he won’t get “distracted” by talk of a presidential campaign. Perry is, after all, in the throes of the 2011 legislative session, where weighty matters like sweeping budget cuts and immigration restrictions are being considered.
But Perry’s non-denial denial is a little more significant this time because he was asked specifically if he would “rule out” running for president. Here is how the longest serving governor in America answered that question:
“I’ve got my focus on where it’s appropriately supposed to be, and that’s this legislative session,” Perry said. “I’ve said multiple times I’m not going to get distracted from my work at hand, and I’m not going to get distracted today, either.”
Perry made his remarks at the end of a press conference highlighting a bill he just signed into law. It’s known as House Bill 15, and it will require most women to get a sonogram before having an abortion.
In the room with Perry were some of the best known anti-abortion advocates in Texas, along with the sponsors of the legislation — cowboy-hat wearing Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, a conservative talk radio host.
After Perry was asked about running for president, Patrick took to the microphone to answer a question about the sonogram bill. Before answering, Patrick quipped, “If he does run, he’d make a great president.” The crowd — stacked with people who are pro-Perry already — gave its wholly expected applause and approval.
It’s worth noting that Perry has in the past repeatedly said he would not, under any circumstances, run for president in 2012.
Of course, that was before Rush Limbaugh recently extolled Perry’s virtues for 20 minutes, and before Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said they wouldn’t get in the race.
The Perry camp is still telegraphing the notion that the default position is not to run, but it’s safe to say they have cracked the door open, at least a little bit, over the last week. Specific wording matters — a lot — in these speculative political matters.
After the sonogram bill-signing event at the Capitol, the Tribune asked Perry strategist Dave Carney if anything had changed in the way Perry feels about running for president.
Carney said it was impossible not to notice all the buzz about it. And impossible not to ponder, ever so slightly.
“Obviously, it’s flattering to have everybody, Rush Limbaugh and all these other conservative, right-of-center leaders, talk about you, urging you to think about it, urging you to run, saying they support you. But I don’t see any difference in terms of the governor’s thinking,” Carney said.
“I’m sure he’s thinking about it because it’s just human nature when you have Rush Limbaugh spend 20 minutes talking about you and have all these other people mention you, that you don’t sort of think that’s flattering and think about it. But I don’t see any change in his direction, what he’s planning to do.”