MANCHESTER – He came to New Hampshire less than a week after the midterm election, looking like a presidential candidate with a schedule that would rival any presidential candidate’s schedule – six stops in two days, including two town halls in unfriendly territory.
But Texas Gov. Rick Perry insisted Monday he is still six to seven months away from making a decision on a second run for the GOP presidential nomination.
“May or June would be my guess when I’ll made a decision on whether I’m going to go forward,” he said in Manchester. He said he “learned some hard lessons” in 2011 and 2012, when his campaign flailed and ended early in the process.
“They were frustrating lessons in 2012, 2011,” he said. “Not the least of which is that you have to really have to spend a lot of time in preparation to ask the people of this country to be their nominee, much less, stand up and ask them to be their President.”
Perry, who will be leaving the governor’s office early next year, said, “I didn’t do that (in his last candidacy), and I readily admit I was not prepared in 2011, and hopefully the last 22 to 24 months, I spent time in domestic policy, monetary policy, foreign policy, that has helped me in that preparation process.
“May may roll around, June may come and I make decision not to run for the presidency,” he said. “It will not be because I’m not prepared.”
Meanwhile, he said, “Why I’m up here is about presidential politics. But it’s about this President who is in office now and it’s about keeping the people, which is pretty easy to do in New Hampshire, engaged in this process. To talk to their state senators and state House members about good public policy going forward to the Governor of New Hampshire’s desk.”
Is he leaning one way or another about running?
“I’m preparing. I think that’s the best answer I can give you. In the next five to six months I will make that decision and appropriately so.”
At the same time, Perry stood by comments he gave to the conservative outlet Breitbart.com that he does not believe a senator will be the next President, not naming names, even though Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rob Portman are among those eyeing candidacies.
“You read right,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Still, Perry, prior to speaking at the 239th annual U.S. Marine Corps Birthday celebration at the Derryfield Country Club, said voters across the country last week did not give Republicans a mandate, but rather sent a message that they are fed up with the status quo in the nation’s capital and the policies of President Barack Obama and the Democrats.
Perry, 64, also said that while he has major disagreements on policy issues with Obama, he lauded him for appointing Robert McDonald as secretary of Veterans Affairs. See our related story by clicking here.
Last Tuesday’s election results nationally, he said, “was a message to Democrats that the six years we gave you all to lead has been a failure. It wasn’t, ‘We love you, Republicans. We’re going to give Republican an opportunity to show us whether you can lead or not.’”
The message was, he said, “’We’re going to give you Republicans one more chance to govern,’ and I hope that’s exactly what we see with thoughtful policies: energy policies, opening up the (Keystone) XL pipeline, putting people to work. Tax policies, particularly at the corporate level, so you incentivize companies to hire people and create wealth. And obviously securing the border – that’s a big issue for the American people.”
Locally, he noted, Granite Staters are ready to look ahead to the 2016 leadoff presidential primary.
“After learning the ins and outs of New Hampshire, it doesn’t surprise me at all” that some are already taking in interest in 2016, he said. “Politics are full-body contact” in New Hampshire. “They’re into it, which is a good thing.”
In New Hampshire Democrats retained the U.S. Senate seat, the governor’s office and one US. House seat, but Perry noted, “You increased your Republican number in the House and in the Senate, so there is a real opportunity to govern.”
On the national level, Perry said he met with soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last Wednesday, “and he is very focused on the things that I have talked about – energy policy that gets this country working. I suspect the Teamsters union will be stepping up with Republicans and Democrats to get the XL pipeline open. Hopefully, there is some thoughtful tax policy we can put in place so Americans can see that both parties are working toward getting this country back working again.
“Obviously, we can be of assistance in giving them some really good intelligence on how to deal with securing the border,” said Perry, who has said his decision to send National Guard troops to the border has proven successful.
“Those three policies I will suggest will give Americans confidence that Republicans know how to lead and frankly the President can be a partner in this. I hope he will not dig in. Let’s find solutions to the challenges we have.”
Perry, who finished sixth in the 2012 first-in-the-nation presidential primary with only 1,764 votes, has a new point man in the Granite State this time around – if he runs, that is.
Michael Dennehy, a veteran Republican operative who was a senior adviser to victorious John McCain leadoff primary campaigns in 2000 and 2008, was hired earlier this year to be the lead New Hampshire contact for Perry’s policy group, Americans for Economic Freedom.
Dennehy said that on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most definite that Perry will run, he puts the probability at a “five.”
“He’s enjoying going around and talking to people, including in New Hampshire,” Dennehy said. “He never really had a chance to develop relationships. He’s doing that for the first time.”
He said Perry, should he run, will have new team running his operation.
The betting among GOP prognosticators in the state is that the Texas governor will run, barring some unforeseen personal or political issues.
Perry remains under indictment in his home state on charges of abuse of power, stemming from his veto of funding for a public integrity unit headed by a woman who was charged with drunk driving and who, video has shown, was belligerent to arresting officers.
Perry has dismissed the allegations as politically-oriented and has noted they were brought in one of the few Texas counties in which Democrats dominate. He was not asked to address the indictment in his brief press conference with the New Hampshire media.
Perry arrived in New Hampshire on Sunday and spoke at an event sponsored by the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women in Concord. He then attended a reception with the Sullivan County GOP in Sunapee before heading to Dartmouth College for an open town hall event that drew people who both agreed and disagreed with him.
On Monday, following the Marine Corps birthday event, Perry was scheduled to hold another town hall, this one also in Democratic territory – Keene State College — before attending a Cheshire County Republican Committee reception, also in Keene.
The mixture of Republican events and open town halls in territory not necessarily friendly to a conservative Republican such as Perry was reminiscent of the type of town hall schedule that McCain became famous for during his runs – an approach in which Dennehy played a role.
Whether this leads to another Perry candidacy remains to be seen, but all appearances so far point toward a run.
Perry has been traveling the country during the year touting the strong Texas economy and helping GOP candidates. He visited New Hampshire in August and has contributed more than $60,000 to the New Hampshire Republican Party, local GOP committees and GOP candidates.
His nationwide schedule has included – and continues to include – early states in the GOP presidential selection process.
Dennehy said Perry was in first-caucus state Iowa just last week and was headed to South Carolina, which holds the key first primary in the South, after his two-day visit to New Hampshire concluded.
At the U.S. Marine Corps 239th Birthday Luncheon, Perry – an Air Force veteran – told the gathering that Marines are “devoted to duty no matter how the high the cost” and are “willing to follow any order because of an abiding love of country.
“And in a time where our mission abroad is not clear, when malignant forces have risen in the sands of Iraq and Syria, in the faraway lands of Asia, we know that we can still rely on a few good Marines.”
Perry said in his remarks, “But we owe it to these Marines, and their brothers and sisters in arms of every branch, to always give them the tools to win the fight. No American should go into battle with one arm tied behind their back, with rules of engagement that advantage the enemy.
“I fear we have not learned the lessons of the first World War, and end of the cold war: inviting chaos, and tempting our enemies to test us instead of fear us. If peace is what we seek, the answer is not to withdraw from threats abroad.”
Said Perry: “We won the Cold War because of a relentless policy of engagement and an unwavering show of resolve.”
He also said, “Today, our spending on defense has declined 21 percent over four years. Today, threats are not in retreat, they are on the rise — from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, to the emergence of ISIS and the continued struggle to secure Afghanistan.
“And today, our foreign policy is mired in confusion, and lacking in clarity,” said Perry.
“And if that wasn’t enough, we have witnessed in the last year that those who have returned home from the fight, those who have given the most, have been treated the worst.
“If the Veterans Administration cannot meet the health care needs of veterans of war, then why do they exist? It is time for government to keep its promise to our heroes, to give them the care they need when they return from the front of battle. It is time to rebuild our military after more than a decade of war to invest in the safety of America by investing in the men and women who wear the uniform,” Perry said.