Gov. Rick Perry, moving closer to a run for the White House, took his anti-Washington message to New York City Tuesday night, telling a gathering of Republican donors that the Obama administration had “promised jobs and … delivered economic misery.”
In his highly anticipated speech, Perry gave the crowd the kind of angry populism that he wielded against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the 2010 Republican primary, but this time it was designed for a national audience. And it came as the longest-serving governor in the United States has begun to increase his visibility with speeches around the country and in interviews with media outlets, speaking more openly than ever about running for president.
Earlier at a law firm on Park Avenue, Perry met with “potential donors” who heard the Texas governor profess his support for Israel and for good relations with trading partner giant Mexico, according to former U.S. Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary David Malpass, who was in attendance.
Malpass said the meeting was called by “growth-oriented conservatives” interested in meeting the candidates — and potential candidates — running for president.
If the governor seemed reluctant before to talk about a presidential bid, that seems to be gone now. In appearances on Fox News and in a Tribune interview, the governor openly discussed the "thought process" he's going through as he considers entering what many perceive as a weak GOP field. Perry has said he's focused on the ongoing special legislative session in Austin, even as he stages events that have dramatically boosted his profile as a potential presidential candidate.
Boyd Richie, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said Perry had presided over deep budget cuts that would prompt layoffs of teachers and leave senior citizens and the disabled without a social safety net. Richie noted that the state budget would lead to the first overall reduction in public education funding since the modern school finance system was created in 1949.
"It is absolutely unconscionable that we're in the position we're in," Richie said. "The idea that we're going to have somebody that irresponsible running for president is breathtaking."
During his speech, Perry talked up the Texas economy, citing figures that he said show that the Lone Star State created nearly half of all the jobs added to the U.S. economy since June 2009. He took a lot of the credit for it — saying that lawsuit reforms, fiscal restraint and limited business regulations laid the groundwork.
But it was his full-throated conservatism, all black and white and stripped of nuance, that lit up the audience and got him a standing ovation at the end. It is increasingly what Perry is known for.
At times shouting during his speech at the Grand Hyatt in Midtown Manhattan, Perry criticized a federal government that saw itself as “all knowing” and all powerful — an overspending “Oz standing behind the curtain, moving the levers, limiting the freedom of our people."
Perry came up with some new lines, saying the Obama administration believes profit is a “dirty word” and would never “willingly give up an ounce of power.”
At one point, the governor invited supporters to text the word "leadership" on their cell phones to a number that would be used to rally support. He didn't say precisely for what. Perry has not announced the formation of a federal committee to run for president.
"My team will use that to keep you in the loop as we work to send a strong message to Washington that enough is enough," Perry said.
“We are going to send a message in 2011 and 2012,” he told the audience. “We’re going to be against those failed stimulus programs, we’re going to be against these bloated bailouts that we’ve seen, we’re going to be against this destructive health care program that has been put in place. We are at a time of testing in this country.”
Perry took aim not only at liberals and debt-loving Washington, he also went after Republicans who waiver on social issues.
“It really annoys me when some of my fellow Republicans duck and cover from the pressure on the left when it comes to the issues of protecting the most vulnerable in our state and our country,” Perry said. "We need to stop apologizing for valuing human life."