Texas Governor Rick Perry joined the 2012 Republican race for president Saturday, lambasting Barack Obama's handling of the economy and declaring "it is time to get America working again."

"America isn't broken; Washington, D.C., is broken," Perry, a staunch conservative beloved by the tea party movement, told an audience of supporters in South Carolina.

"A renewed nation needs a new president."

Perry criticized Obama for "apologizing for America" on foreign policy and said he would do better at creating jobs than the president, whose administration is struggling to revive the U.S. economy in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Emphasizing "hard work and personal responsiblity," Perry outlined his guiding principles of government, which includes keeping taxes low, balancing a budget through spending cuts and minimizing government involvement.

"In [former British Prime Minister's] Margaret Thatcher's words: we will not stand for a state that takes too much from us to do too much for us," said the politician, who added that the U.S. was experiencing an "economic disaster" with more than nine per cent unemployed and thousands who have simply given up looking for a job.

Give Obama 'pink slip,' tea party favourite urges

Perry, who has spent three terms as governor of Texas, also highlighted his state's success, saying that more than 40 per cent of the new jobs created in the country since 2009 have come from Texas.

"It's time to give the pink slip to the current residents of the White House," he declared in his 30-minute speech.

Perry was an early backer of the tea party movement and enjoys the support of social conservatives because of his opposition to abortion and gay rights. He is also an evangelical Christian who organized a well-attended prayer rally in Houston last week

Some Republicans worry that Perry's hard-core conservatism and Texas style may not play well in a 50-state contest, particularly so soon after another Texas governor, George W. Bush, served in the White House. Bush had record low approval ratings when he left office in 2009

The governor's announcement came only a few hours before the release of results from the straw poll in Iowa, the nation's first caucus state. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and U.S. representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota are expected to top that poll.

Perry, 61,  is expected to visit New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state, later Saturday before stepping onto Iowa soil Sunday.

The leading Republican candidate so far has been Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor making his second run for the nomination. But no one in the field has managed to raise the kind of enthusiasm among conservatives that seems to surround Perry.

Among the others in the race are former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and businessman Herman Cain.

With files from The Associated Press