Skip to main content

Analysis: Perry Says Goodbye — and Hello

Rick Perry will only be the governor of Texas for a few more days, but as he considers another run for president, his last speech to the Legislature was as much about the next 18 months as about the last 14 years.

Gov. Rick Perry on the House dais in his final speech to the Texas Legislature as governor on Jan. 15. The state's longest-serving governor went on launch a second presidential bid but exited the race in September.

This is a leap, but not a long one: Gov. Rick Perry started his second bid for the Republican nomination for president on Thursday, delivering a valedictory speech to the Texas Legislature on his way out of an office he has held for more than 14 years.

Perry offered a look back at his political history and his time as governor, and he presented an assessment of the state during his time in office. Everything he said made perfect sense if you were watching a governor in his last big public address. And a lot of it looked pretty good if you were tuning in to see a candidate making the turn from a successful run in one office to a bid for an even bigger job. 

“In this, the people’s House, we’re in the business of making dreams possible,” Perry told a joint session of the Legislature. “Every dream counts. Every child matters. And in Texas, every child has a chance.

“That is the Texas we have built together, a Texas of unlimited opportunity. There’s a reason more people move to Texas than any other state — because this is the best place to find a job, raise your family and pursue your dreams.”

Just the kind of music you hear in a presidential race, isn’t it? And it’s the pivot voters will be hearing from Iowa and New Hampshire — a couple of places Perry will be visiting soon as he tries to erase the memory of his botched first run for that job in 2011. He said as much about his travel plans Thursday, talking to a couple of reporters in the back hall of the House before his speech.

This was as much start as finish. If the falling price of oil or a developing contracting scandal in state government or criminal indictments or whatever else might creep into the headlines does not mess things up — if Texas holds up as a shiny example of what he can do — Perry might be off to a good start.

He boasted about “a state where the impossible is possible.” He talked of his rise from hard-scrabble to prosperity, from a home where they didn’t have running water or electricity to the Governor’s Mansion. And he went through a list of the events that marked his time in the state’s top office, from hurricanes to wildfires to Ebola.

He bragged about the state’s recent fiscal history, and he gave his answer to those who say he was the lucky beneficiary of a boom in the oil patch. “If you wonder whether leadership in a governor’s office can impact economic growth,” Perry said, look at the Marcellus Shale: Pennsylvania is prospering, while New York’s governor, he said, decided instead to play politics and ban fracking. Since he became governor, he said, Texas has accounted for almost one-third of the new jobs created in the U.S.

He went on, but you get the idea — and you’ll be hearing chunks of this speech for as long as he is in the running for the GOP nomination. Perry has said that he’s thinking about it, that he will make some kind of announcement in a few months. He has moved his political office to a new location in Austin — a mile or two farther away from the Capitol and all of those observant political eyes and ears.

Perry is now in a countdown to noon next Tuesday, when his title will be “former governor” and he will have to start paying for his own housing. He talked about immigration, an issue that has dogged his governorship and will be a centerpiece of everybody’s national campaign, including his own.

He made a plea for harmony among his fellow Republicans, “asking that you do not place purity ahead of unity.”

It was a pretty good speech, relatively short, well delivered, and functional in both of the ways it had to be — as goodbye, and hello.

Imagine you just walked in and heard someone on TV giving a speech, saying these words about his record. “The one constant has been a belief in conservative ideas, that families know how to spend their money better than government. That government must do a few things, and do them well, and that Texans, uninhibited by over-taxation and excess regulation, can make the most of freedom.”

Does that sound like a governor on his way out, or a candidate for president, knocking on the door one more time?

Texans need truth. Help us report it.

Support independent Texas news

Become a member. Join today.

Donate now

Explore related story topics

State government 2016 elections Governor's Office Rick Perry Texas Legislature