Perry declares 2nd bid for president

Perry made it official Thursday at an airplane hangar north of Dallas, where he was surrounded by military veterans and with a C-130 transport plane, which he flew in the Air Force, as his backdrop.


His announcement included sharp criticism of President Obama’s policies at home and abroad. Asserting that the country is nearing the “end of an era of failed leadership,” Perry said it is time to reset the relationship between the government and its citizens.

“We have the power to make things new again,” he said. “To project American strength again, to get our economy going again. And that is why today I am running for the presidency of the United States of America.”

He promised to return power to the states, boost economic growth, reform the tax code, tackle entitlements programs, reduce federal regulations, secure the border, protect the middle class, and build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Internationally, he offered muscularity in confronting Islamic State militants. He also said he would use U.S. energy resources to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin in Europe and on his first day in office would rescind any nuclear agreement with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration.

Perry said 2016 would be a “show-me, don’t tell me” election, where the question asked of every candidate will be this one: When have you led? Leadership is not a speech on the Senate floor; it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.”

Perry served as governor of Texas for 14 years, longer than anyone else in history, and he stressed his executive experience as an asset. But as he begins his second campaign, he faces questions about whether he can overcome the negative impressions he left after his first campaign.

Perry is the 10th Republican to announce for president this year, with more coming. The field Perry joins is not only larger than that of four years ago but also is far stronger in the experience and qualifications of many of the aspirants.

When Perry announced his candidacy back then, he had never lost an election and seemed almost perfectly positioned to compete for the Republican nomination.

He was a long-serving Texas governor in a party whose political base was in the South. He governed during a period of rapid growth and job creation in his native state. His anti-Washington instincts made him a tea party darling before there was a tea party, and his faith put him in touch with Christian conservatives.

Within weeks of his announcement, he was atop the polls, a major threat to the front-runner, Mitt Romney. But weeks after achieving those lofty poll numbers, his candidacy was in a rapid descent, brought on by his opponents’ attacks and his own maladroit performances in early debates.

By the time he said “oops” on a debate stage in Michigan — after he couldn’t remember all the agencies in Washington he planned to eliminate as president — his candidacy was already history, as he has since admitted.

He begins his second campaign near the bottom of the big field of GOP candidates, lightly regarded by many of his rivals, ignored or dismissed by many in the media and struggling for the kind of attention that a politician who led one of the nation’s most populous states might normally command.

But he and his advisers believe that, if he was overestimated but ill-prepared four years ago, he is the opposite now: underestimated — and, in their view, readier for the challenges that a presidential campaign presents.

Matthew Dowd, who helped George W. Bush win two elections to the White House and is now an independent analyst, sees an extremely difficult road ahead for Perry, owing to the impressions he made four years ago. “I wouldn’t say impossible but very difficult. . . . The caricature has been made of him, and it’s hard to get out of it,” Dowd said.

Matt Rhoades, who as Romney’s campaign manager saw Perry as enough of a threat in late summer 2011 to move aggressively to bring him down, offered a different view: suggesting that people are foolish to write off the former governor as an afterthought in the 2016 nomination battle.

“Gov. Perry has worked hard and done the right things to reposition himself for a run in 2016,” Rhoades, the founder of the conservative political action committee America Rising, said in an email. “I believe his candidacy will have a major impact on the primary, and voters will give him a second chance.”

Perry has to grapple with both the memories of his first campaign and new obstacles. He will have a harder time raising money this time around, thanks in part to competition in Texas from former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz , R-Texas. Perry also remains under indictment, accused of abuse of power as governor.

Perry has long been open about the mistakes of his first campaign, saying he was “a bit arrogant” in believing that he could jump into that race late, with minimal preparation and just after major surgery on his back.

This time, he has devoted himself to policy briefings, some foreign travel, trips to the early states — all in contrast to his previous campaign. His announcement Thursday was far better choreographed than the launch four years ago.

“When he entered in 2011, he gave himself and our campaign team six weeks to prepare,” said Ray Sullivan, a longtime adviser who is not formally part of the 2016 campaign. “He entered the race as a front-runner and had no ramp-up time and no room for really any error. He clearly learned from that experienced and is a much better prepared, more informed campaigner for it.”

Perry stressed his experience in his speech Thursday. “I have been tested,” he said. “I have led the most successful state in America. I have dealt with crisis after crisis — from the disintegration of a space shuttle, to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, to the crisis at the border, and the first diagnosis of Ebola in America.”

Many of Thursday’s themes, particularly the economy, were the same ones that were supposed to boost him four years ago. “We did a horrible job of telling that story last time,” said a senior Perry adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss matters openly. “We jumped in and thought everybody knew that story. The American people are going to see a very different Rick Perry.”

Perry’s early challenge will be to qualify for the first debates. Organizers say they are limiting participation to the top 10 candidates in national polls, and Perry is at risk of not being among them at the opening debate Aug. 6 in Cleveland. His advisers said they are confident he will be there.

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Here is Perry’s his take on guns, “Obamacare” and more, in his own words. (By Julie Percha/The Washington Post)

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