Former Texas Gov. Perry Prepares To Announce Presidential Bid

May 26, 2015
Originally published on May 26, 2015 3:47 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And we turn now to politics. When Rick Perry ran for the White House four years ago, he talked a lot about cutting down the size of the federal government, including in this televised debate among Republican candidates.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEBATE)

RICK PERRY: It's three agencies of government when I get there that are gone.

GREENE: He listed Education and Commerce and then...

(SOUNDBITE OF DEBATE)

PERRY: The third agency of government I would do away with - the Education, the Commerce and - let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops.

GREENE: Call it the oops heard around the world. It crystallized a candidacy that went nowhere. Now the former Texas governor is back, expected to announce a new presidential bid next week. NPR's Don Gonyea found him in Iowa.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Four years ago after that memorable for all-the-wrong-reasons moment, Perry tried some damage control in the post-debate spin room.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Governor, what happened in there?

PERRY: Yeah, I stepped in it, man. I'm - yeah, it was embarrassing, of course it was.

GONYEA: But last week, Rick Perry was back and in Iowa, saying this about that.

PERRY: There were two issues with me in 2011. One is I wasn't healthy. You all know the health stories, and we're not going to - you know, that was - it was what it was, and...

GONYEA: What it was was back surgery early in the summer of 2011 and a slower-than-expected recovery. Then he gets to the other problem he says doomed his first national campaign.

PERRY: The other was in preparation and just spending the time on all the issues that are important - a person that's going to stand up in front of people and answer their questions there, and it's across the board - economics, domestic policy, monetary policy, foreign policy.

GONYEA: Perry says those lessons have been learned, that he's in great health, and he's ready to take another shot. This is from an early morning gathering in the basement community room of a bank in Rock Rapids.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Gov. Perry's a very strong pro-life and pro-family governor, and he has a strong military background. So please welcome Gov. Rick Perry.

(APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: If Rick Perry is to make a more credible run this time around, he'll need to do very well in Iowa. He says an early start to his campaign will help, and he's using the time to share his own background - growing up on a farm in the tiny town of Paint Creek, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PERRY: Actually where I grew up was 16 miles out in the country. It was - as I was corrected one day - it actually had a ZIP code, but it didn't have a post office. So we were way out in the country.

(LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: As he spoke of seeing the first bits of green appearing in the dark soil as he drove through Iowa, an infant squirmed in mom's lap in the front row.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PERRY: And it's an optimistic time of the year. This is when we know we're going to make a good crop and we're going to get a good price for it.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: We are eternally optimistic. Now, if you want to see an eternal optimist, talk to a dryland cotton farmer. I mean, that...

GONYEA: Perry is a military veteran. Only one other GOP hopeful can say the same - Sen. Lindsey Graham. And Perry says he would not have launched the war in Iraq knowing what we know today. Still, he blames the rise of ISIS on President Obama. He also boasts of strong job creation during his 14 years as Texas governor, and he says he's a disciplined fiscal conservative.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PERRY: You're going to have to cut spending. We're just going to have to be honest with the American people, and tell them - say, we're going to have to cut spending.

GONYEA: On the stop here and in larger venues, Perry is animated and energetic. But he's still got a steep climb ahead. Last time, he entered with much fanfare and a costly media campaign - an immediate front-runner. This year, there's none of that. Polls show him barely cracking the top 10. At the Rock Rapids event, 34-year-old small-business owner Josh Bakker, who also doubles as the local county GOP chair, says he doesn't think people are dwelling on Perry's famous oops.

JOSH BAKKER: That was a bad moment for him, no doubt.

GONYEA: Bakker says voters he's talked to have moved on. They're willing to give a second chance, but...

BAKKER: He better stay sharp, I'll just say that. I mean, if he - you know, if he does that again a time or two, that would probably hurt.

GONYEA: So call Rick Perry, a potentially formidable candidate with little or no margin for error. Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.