Two days after his mug shot went viral on the Internet, Rick Perry set out to show that he won’t be intimidated or slowed down by his indictment on abuse of power charges.
“There’s some interesting things going on back in my home state right now,” Perry said at a Washington immigration forum today as his audience laughed. “I can assure you that I will fight this attack.”
The Texas governor is casting himself as the type of hard- charging political pugilist that appeals to the base of Republican Party as he unofficially kicks off his second presidential campaign.
That narrative, from ordering Texas National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to his defiant response to his indictment last week, will get a market test as Perry heads to New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina -- the three states with early party presidential contests -- within the next week.
“Both parties want people who are committed to fighting for their principles, who are not afraid and not going to apologize for doing what they think is right,” Louis Saenez, the campaign manager for Perry’s 2006 governor’s race, said in an interview. “You see some of that now with Perry.”
Perry’s decision on whether to run will be determined in part by whether Republican voters will give him a second chance after the meltdown of his 2012 presidential bid, and whether he can raise money under the cloud of a criminal case.
The governor is accused of abusing his authority by vetoing the budget for a public corruption office after the Democratic prosecutor, who led the unit and had been charged with drunken driving, refused to resign.
Until the Texas indictment on Aug. 15, Perry was running in the middle of a crowd of governors and senators considering a run in the 2016 Republican primary. His vow to beat the charges against him, if successful, could separate him from the pack.
An internal poll commissioned by the Tea Party Patriots, a Georgia-based group that has spent more than $10 million on elections and activism this year, showed that 47 percent of its donors say Republicans in Congress compromise too much, while 23 percent said there wasn’t enough cooperation.
That should embolden Perry, said Jenny Beth Martin, chairwoman of the group’s super political action committee.
“They want Republicans to stand up and fight and compromise less,” Martin said in an interview. “The fact that Rick Perry is standing up and fighting will appeal to Republican voters.”
Perry, 64, showed that streak at today’s event, telling his audience at The Heritage Foundation, a Republican policy research group, that Obama is to blame for the “chaos and grief” on the border.
Almost 63,000 children were apprehended trying to cross the U.S-Mexico border between Oct. 1, 2013 and July 31, twice as many as the same time period a year earlier.
As U.S. lawmakers failed to respond to the crisis, Perry ordered 1,000 National Guard troops to the border, which he described today as “porous” and “largely undefended.”
“Defending the border is not a political option, it is a constitutional obligation,” Perry said. “And until the federal government meets that duty and secures that border, all talk of immigration reform is pointless because Washington has no credibility on the matter.”
Perry’s tough talk about the border comes after Republican opponents attacked him on immigration issues during his previous presidential bid.
During the primary campaign, Perry was criticized by eventual nominee Mitt Romney for allowing undocumented immigrants who graduate from Texas high schools to receive lower in-state tuition rates at state colleges. Romney called that measure a magnet for illegal immigration, while Perry defended it as a way to keep young people from becoming a drain on state resources.
At the Heritage event, Perry also took a hard stance on the fighting in the Middle East, saying that combat troops should be one of the options the U.S. considers to fight Islamic State militants after the beheading of a U.S. journalist.
“All your options have to be open,” Perry said. “Signaling to your enemy what you are not going to put on the table is very, very bad.”
Perry called for a “sustained air campaign” in Iraq, and criticized the Obama administration for failing to help Syrian rebels as a “crucial point.”
“We better get on top of this crisis by every means necessary,” he said. “We have come to one of those moments when American action will be decisive, and inaction will be consequential.”
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