Gov. Rick Perry may have set his sights on the Texas border with his plan to send 1,000 state National Guard troops to boost security, but some suggest his main target is the Republican base, as the governor has strongly signalled he may attempt another presidential nominee run.
“He hasn't made a decision about 2016. Regardless, he is taking his preparation seriously,” Jeff Miller, a senior adviser to Perry, told CBC News.
Part of that preparation, which for nearly the past two years has included boning up on foreign and domestic policy, and making several trips to the key state of Iowa, could be continuing to press the White House about border security, an important issue with many Republicans.
On Monday, Perry said the national guard troops were going to combat criminals who were exploiting a surge of children pouring into the U.S. illegally. However, White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested that Perry’s plan was about “generating the kind of headlines I suspect he intended.” And Tony Payan, director of the Mexico Center at Rice University's Baker Institute in Houston, said the operational effect of the plan would be limited, forcing “one to think that this is a political move."
But Miller flatly denied the move had anything to do with politics.
"This is about solving a serious problem facing our country,” Miller said. “He believes America can’t have national security without border security."
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Perry, 64, will not be running for re-election as Texas governor. And, as the New York Times noted, if Perry is seeking another run for presidential nominee, he may also be trying to curry favour among conservatives who either questioned his resolve on illegal immigration during that race or were stung by some of his comments.
In one testy Republican primary debate, as the candidates took shots at Perry’s support of a law allowing children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition, Perry shot back: “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart.”
Some in the party found the remark insulting. But it hardly delivered the death knell to what had been a rocky campaign. Most believe that came with his now famous "oops" moment.
In yet another debate, Perry said he would eliminate three agencies of the federal government, but could only name two. The moment, while met with laughs from the audience, quickly turned cringeworthy as CNBC's John Harwood pressed the governor: "But you can't name the third one?"
Perry stumbled around, looking increasingly uncomfortable, until finally admitting: “I can’t, the third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
He would go on to finish fifth in the Iowa caucuses and sixth in the New Hampshire primary before calling it quits.
“The governor has been very honest in stating that 2012 was a humbling experience, and one that he learned greatly from,” Miller said.
By his own admission, Perry didn’t prepare well for the 2012 race, and was also hobbled by having to campaign while on painkillers, as he recovered from back surgery.
But he has since attempted to craft a new, thoughtful image as a politician who has delved into the issues — an effort to erase the "oops" moment from the minds of American voters.
New dark-rimmed glasses give him a more intellectual look, although he insists they were ordered by an eye doctor to help improve his vision. (Perry credits his wife for picking out the frames.)
Meanwhile,during the past 18 months Perry has met with influential foreign and domestic policy-makers from around the world, Miller said.
“Gov. Perry believes that it is important to closely follow issues and events occurring around the world and engage with others to determine how they might affect America's future,” Miller said. “This is a lesson he learned in 2012.”
The experience has certainly made him more vocal on foreign policy issues (and more appealing to Republican hawks), where he has called for a more aggressive stance in Iraq and Syria. It's also put him at odds with Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who also is seen as a potential presidential nominee. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Perry accused Paul of being an isolationist, a charge Paul has denied.
But if Perry is trying to boost his credentials with the more conservative wing of the Republicans, his recent appearance at the World Economic Forum would suggest he’s also trying to broaden his appeal.
Perry appeared on a drug panel, where the so-called tough Texas conservative spoke about decriminalizing marijuana, and his state’s attempts to decrease the penalties for some drug offences.
“You don’t want to ruin a kid's life for having a joint,” Perry later said (to much applause) in an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show.
“We’ve been able to shut down a prison in the state of Texas. That’s conservative, man.”
Writing for the National Journal, political analyst Charlie Cook said that since Perry's 2012 debacle, many observers have tended to write off his chances.
"But whether one agrees with him or not, he seems to have enough raw talent, combined with the benefit of past experience, that blowing him off might be premature.”
Asked by Kimmel if he was running again, considering "it didn't go that great last time," Perry responded, "You know, America is a great place for second chances. Let's just leave it at that."