Gov. Perry sounds like a candidate at conference

NEW ORLEANS — As soon as Texas Gov. Rick Perry uttered the last phrase of his blistering attack on President Barack Obama at the Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday, the chant began: “Run, Rick, run!”

Perry, 61, did not tell the crowd of nearly 2,000 conservative activists that he w

ill run for president — that decision is pending — but he looked and sounded like a candidate. A favorite of the tea-party movement, Perry is a strong proponent of states’ rights and an object of yearning for some Republicans unmoved by the current crop of contenders.

Perry has stepped up h

is travel around the country, and advisers are exploring the mechanics of entering the Iowa caucuses, but his appearance at the conference, which also heard from four declared candidates for president, was his most overt flirtation with the race to date.

Libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul of Texas won the gathering’s straw poll by a wide margin, as he often does, on the strength of a youthful core of supporters. Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah who is often seen as moderate, finished a surprising second. He could not come because he had a bad cold, but his family mingled with activists and his advisers campaigned quietly.

Obama administration policies are choking the economy and crimping individual freedom, Perry argued.

“They will never give up an ounce of power in Washington, D.C., until the American people stand up and demand reform,” Perry said. He also urged Republicans to quit trying to de-emphasize the party’s conservative views on social issues such as abortion.

“It saddens me sometimes when my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left,” Perry said. “We need to stop apologizing for celebrating life. Our loudest opponents on the left are never going to like us, so let us quit trying to curry favor with them. Let’s stop this American downward spiral.”

Perry touted his pro-business economic policies, noting that Texas is responsible for nearly 50 percent of the relatively few jobs created in the United States in the last two years. If he gets into the race, Perry would be the only candidate from the South, a region the GOP dominates.

“It’s going to take someone who’s independent and speaks from the gut and means what he says, and Rick Perry seems like that kind of leader,” said Kay McCoy, a preschool teacher from Picayune, Miss., waiting in line to get the governor’s signature on a copy of his 2010 book, “Fed Up!

She said she was undecided on a candidate but was intrigued by Perry, confessing to a bit of bias. “Thirty-eight years ago I married a Texas cowboy. … I’ll tell you what, that’s the kind of people Texans are: forthright.”

Perry was elected to the Texas state House in 1984 as a Democrat, and in 1988 was the chairman of then-Tennessee Sen. Al Gore’s presidential campaign. After switching to the GOP, Perry was elected agriculture commissioner and lieutenant governor. Perry became governor in 2000, when George W. Bush resigned to move into the Oval Office.

Last year, Perry won a third full term as governor, defeating Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican primary by attacking her long Washington ties, as well as championing the 10th Amendment, which limits the power of the federal government over the states.

During that campaign, while speaking at a tea-party rally, Perry once suggested Texas might have to secede from the union if the federal government keeps expanding its power.

Earlier in the day at the RLC, an Obama impersonator brought down the house with racially charged jokes and references to former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner and his sexting scandal.

“My favorite month is February, Black History Month — Michelle celebrates the full month, and I celebrate half,” impersonator Reggie Brown said, adding, “My mother loved a black man and no, she was not a Kardashian.”

Brown drew a chorus of boos, however, when he started mocking Republican candidates. He said of Newt Gingrich’s campaign: “His consultants are dropping faster than Anthony Weiner’s pants in an AOL chat room.”

He also joked that the front-running GOP candidate Mitt Romney would have a first, second, and third lady if elected — a reference to the long-ago practice of polygamy in Romney’s Mormon faith.

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