Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) held a conference call from Austin this afternoon. The legislative session was supposed to end today, but Perry signed a proclamation earlier in the day to force the legislature into a special session. When I asked him about a potential presidential race, he demurred, saying he would discuss it when the legislative session ended. There would be time, he said, “this summer, this fall” to talk about that. “Stay tuned,” he advised.
Nevertheless, the call sounded a bit like a campaign ad, or at least the material that would go into an ad.
He touted the cuts in state spending “while maintaining essential services,” noted the $6 billion in the state’s rainy day fund, and argued that he had followed the “instructions” the voters sent last November, namely to come up with “leaner government, more efficient government without tax increases.”
He placed particular emphasis on making Texas the “most attractive place” to do business, noting passage of the ‘loser pays” litigation reform bill that he says will reduce frivolous lawsuits.
Unlike his national TV appearances (which often stray toward the flashy or controversial), this was the detail-oriented, sober governor talking. He plainly has a record conservatives would find admirable, with very few oops moments to apologize for. (One might be his 1988 support for Al Gore’s presidential candidacy and service as the Democrat’s state party chairman. But it’s hard to come up with others in the past 20 years.)
The trick for Perry, however, will be to convert his gubernatorial record, if he decides to run, into a national agenda. He’s been a frequent advocate of a very strict interpretation of the 10th Amendment. In essence, he’s been telling the federal government to butt out of education, health care, environmental regulation and just about everything else. What he would do — to restyle our entitlement programs, stimulate economic growth and attend to national security — are things he would have to think about and explain to primary voters. So, as Perry said, stay tuned. It’s not like the current field is going to run away with things while he completes the state’s business.