Rick Perry. (Jim Young/Reuters) Rick Perry (Jim Young/Reuters)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), onetime presidential candidate, told a gathering of conservative activists Saturday that they have a "long way to go" to win national elections.

"I woke up the morning after the election of 2012 and was feeling a bit humbled," he told the annual meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Washington, D.C. "It was really clear that the case we made as conservatives and, frankly, some of us as candidates, we didn't move the majority of people in this country."

The Faith and Freedom Coalition is a 5013c4 organization founded in 2009 by Ralph Reed as a way to bring together Tea Party activists and religious conservatives.

"We need to understand that we got a long way to go," Perry told the crowd, which filled about a third of the ballroom. "I've learned a little bit about humility, particularly on national television.  God hasn't called the perfect to go into public service. He's called people like you and me. "

Perry told the crowd that conservatives needed to shift their tone. "We stand for the principles that made America great," he said. "We should exude those principles with joy. Smile when you disagree with a liberal. As Ronald Reagan said, liberals know so much that isn't so. Our conservative convictions will win this country back if our tone shows we're comfortable with our own ideals."