Rick Perry 2016: Did he just announce for president?

Rick Perry announced Monday that he will not run for reelection as governor of Texas in 2014, and said nothing about running for president in 2016. But he dropped plenty of hints.

Eric Gay/AP
Texas Gov. Rick Perry announces he will not seek reelection as governor, Monday, July 8, at Holt Cat in San Antonio, Texas.

For once, Rick Perry did not surprise us. As expected, the longest-serving governor in Texas history announced Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2014.

Governor Perry didn’t say explicitly that he plans to run for president in 2016. But his remarks in San Antonio might as well have been his opening campaign speech. We heard about his humble origins in Paint Creek, Texas. We heard his case for the Texas economy during his 14 years as chief executive, including 1.6 million jobs created and seven balanced budgets.

And we heard a dig against the federal government, always a good move when you’re running for the Republican presidential nomination.

“We’ve stood strong against unwise policies from Washington that would bust the bank,” such as expansions of unemployment insurance and Medicaid, Perry said.

Perry also said he would “truly miss serving in this capacity” (emphasis added) – a signal, perhaps, that he wasn’t done serving, just getting ready to finish serving as governor of Texas.

Less than two hours after Perry’s speech began, a press release went out from the website, RickPerry.org, touting his record as governor and linking to his speech and a transcript.

Other clues have emerged pointing to a likely do-over for Perry as a presidential candidate, following his less-than-impressive attempt in the 2012 cycle. For example, he’s just rehired his former presidential campaign communications director, Mark Miner.

Not long after the 2012 election, Perry himself suggested that he would run again.  

"It was an extraordinary experience – I mean, one that I wouldn't trade," he told a Texas tea party group last December. "And looking back on it ... I would do it again."

Conventional wisdom holds that Perry is a longshot for the 2016 GOP nomination. The potential field is full of young talent, with people like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

And Perry didn’t exactly have a smooth ride last time. He entered the race late, and committed some of the most memorable gaffes in modern political history. During a televised debate, he couldn’t remember the third government agency he planned to shut down. “Oops,” he said with a shrug and a smile. (He later remembered: It was the Department of Energy.)

Once, while in New Hampshire, Perry turned in a rather slap-happy campaign appearance, leading to speculation that he was “on” something. He insisted he wasn’t, though after he dropped out of the race, former aides pointed to a back operation he had had in 2011, and the pain medication he was taking, as a reason for his less-than-optimal run.

Now, assuming he is planning another run, he is doing so with plenty of forethought, and time to build up a warchest, bone up on policy, and hope that most primary voters don’t care that he was the guy who said “oops” on national TV during a presidential debate.

In his speech on Monday, Perry also hinted at an old controversy that reminded some conservatives during the 2012 campaign – including many tea partyers – that they don’t really trust him.

“I will always remember people like Heather Burcham, who touched my heart in the last few months that she had left before she succumbed to cervical cancer,” Perry said.

Back in 2007, the year Ms. Burcham passed away, Perry ordered all sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, which is said to cause cervical cancer. After a conservative backlash, the order was never implemented, and Perry said he regretted issuing the mandate. But he defended his intention, to fight disease.

In touching on the issue Monday, perhaps Perry was trying to inoculate himself against it in a future campaign. But if the latest survey on 2016 by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) is to be believed, Perry has his work cut out, even in his home state. PPP found that Texas’s junior senator, Ted Cruz, is the top choice among the state’s Republican primary voters for the next GOP presidential nomination, with 27 percent.

“Rick Perry’s presidential aspirations appear to be dead in the Lone Star State, as only 18 percent of Texas Republicans wish for him to run,” PPP said in its release on July 3.

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