WASHINGTON — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a man known for his swagger, is going out of his way to downplay expectations in his newest gig: television dancer.
“I’m probably the least-experienced dancer that’s going to be on this program,” he told The Texas Tribune of his selection as a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”
“My bet is, if you ranked them from top to bottom, I’d be at the bottom, both in experience and in training or anything else,” Perry said Tuesday.
But he signed up anyway, and now he's set compete against the likes of actress Maureen McCormick (who played Marcia Brady on “The Brady Bunch”) '90s-era rapper Vanilla Ice and controversial Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. The two-time presidential candidate said he was willing to give the show a try to promote veterans’ awareness and to learn to dance ahead of his daughter’s fall nuptials.
Perry has no formal dance training, and as such, the choice stunned most of Texas, including those closest to him.
“There were a lot of people that were surprised, including my wife,” Perry said.
“We got contacted about six weeks ago and asked if I would be interested,” he said of how the casting came to pass. “My first response was not really, this was way outside of my silo of my interests, knowledge, experience.”
But he had a change of heart.
“I really gave it some thought about what do I want to do? Why would I be interested in doing this? It’s a lot of work. It’s a real commitment.”
He said he decided to do the show because it would put him — and his interest in veterans — in front of “an audience that I probably would never be able to get in front of.”
Perry, an Air Force veteran, said he would talk on the show "about the reason we get to do all the fun and cool things we do in America is because somebody is sacrificing along the way — men and women in the uniform.”
Besides that interest, Perry said his motives were personal as well.
“My daughter’s getting married in October, and I figured if I did the show, I’d at least not embarrass her when we did the father-daughter dance.”
Perry, however, is far more excited about his future in dancing than speculation he might challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 GOP Senate primary.
It all started when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump praised Perry in Austin last week as a potential primary challenger to Cruz.
“In the political world, my experience has been almost exclusively as an executive,” Perry said. “Agriculture commissioner ... lieutenant governor ... which you have your foot in both the executive branch and the legislative branch. And then governor for 14 years.”
“That’s my strength, that is what I enjoy doing, that is not the talents required for the United States Senate,” he said. “My preference of what’s next for Rick Perry is not to be in the United States Senate.”
Many political observers in the state predict that “executive” role for Perry would be as U.S. secretary of veterans affairs, should Trump win the presidency in the November.
But for now, the fall campaign Perry will be most engaged with is "Dancing With the Stars," where he will partner up with show regular Emma Slater.
He said he does not expect to be the best dancer, but he aims “to stay on the show as long as I can.”
He has not yet, however, spoken to former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Sugar Land Republican, for advice.
Delay, known on Capitol Hill during his era as “The Hammer,” showed a softer side in his own 2009 stint on the program.
And could Perry’s background as a Texas A&M yell leader give him a competitive edge?
“I don’t know one of the things we did as yell leaders that would be particularly helpful to this effort,” Perry said. “Not a one.”
Read more of the Tribune's related coverage:
- Some Texas Republicans float Perry as a potential Cabinet member in a Donald Trump administration.
- While campaigning in Austin, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump assailed Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as unfit for public office in the wake of new reports about ties to her family foundation while serving as U.S. secretary of state.