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Perry: "I'm Not Slipping Off Into the Sunset"

In his first public appearance since pulling out of the presidential race Jan. 19, Gov. Rick Perry said Monday he would keep fighting for the conservative ideals he championed on the campaign trail.

Gov. Rick Perry speaks at Williamson County Republican dinner in Round Rock, his first public speech since leaving the presidential race.

He may be out the race for the White House, but a combative Rick Perry said Monday he would keep fighting for the conservative ideals he championed on the campaign trail.

“I’m not slipping off into the sunset. I’m not riding off into the west,” Perry told Republican activists in Round Rock. “We’ve got plenty of work to do right here in the state of Texas. And I got plenty of fight left in this old 61-year-old body.”

It was Perry’s first public appearance since pulling of out the presidential race on Jan. 19. He was treated to a hero’s welcome — including two standing ovations — at the event, a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Williamson County.

Perry, who had never lost an election before, leaned on the sports culture of Texas A&M University, his alma mater, to explain what happened to him in the 2012 race. Aggies don’t like to use terms like “lose” or “defeat.”

“We just ran out of time,” Perry said. “I’m not used to running out of time.”

The governor said he would remain engaged in the fight against what he sees as federal overreach and the “misguided socialist policies from President Obama.”

“This movement is bigger than any one man or woman,” Perry said. “It goes forward at a ballot box near you in 2012."

Perry said he would continue to promote Texas nationally as a “beacon of responsible conservative governance.”

What role he will play isn’t exactly clear, but Perry is still seeking the national spotlight.

He travels to Washington this week to address the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, and he will serve as the Republican speaker at the spring dinner of the Gridiron Club and Foundation in Washington in late March.

Perry hasn’t ruled out running again for governor in 2014 — or for president again, perhaps in 2016.

“I’d do it all over again,” Texas first lady Anita Perry said in an interview on Fox News that aired Monday. “I hope he will.” The governor said in the same interview that if he could change anything about the 2012 race he would have gotten in the race “substantially sooner.”

Perry announced on Aug. 13 and quickly rocketed to the top of the polls. But a series of missteps, gaffes and rookie mistakes sunk his campaign, prompting him to pull out two days before the South Carolina primary.

Republican leaders are doing their best to give Perry a Texas-size welcome back home. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who introduced Perry on Monday night, borrowed a few lines from Theodore Roosevelt, who once hailed the kind of man who “fails while daring greatly.”

“He’s back,” Dewhurst said of the governor. “And he’s stronger.”

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