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Rick Perry And Ted Cruz Test The Presidential Waters At RedState Gathering

It’s the presidential race no one is talking about: Two Texas political stars, both testing the waters for a run in 2016 –without mentioning it, of course. Ted Cruz and Rick Perry took their not-so-stealth campaigns to the annual RedState gathering today — in the heart of America's biggest red state.

It was three years ago, at RedState’s get-together in South Carolina, that Gov. Perry announced his 2012 presidential bid. Today, there was no announcement, but he sounded like he was giving a campaign speech.

“Since I became governor, Texas has created 35 percent of all the private sector new jobs in this country,” Perry told several hundred people in the ballroom of the Renaissance in downtown Fort Worth.

After touching on Texas job creation, slamming President Obama on the stalled Keystone Pipeline and Obamacare, Perry turned to the issue that’s re-launched his presidential plans: immigration.

“If Washington won’t stand to secure the border, as the governor of Texas, I will,” he said.

Perry’s tough stance on immigrant children from Central America and his criticism of the Obama administration has helped him regain popularity with conservative voters.

Since he ordered 1,000 National Guard troops to the border in July, he’s moved from the bottom of most polls closer to the top – last week tying Jeb Bush in a Fox News poll

But Perry isn't the only Texas Republican in the spotlight. 

Cruz To Center Stage

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is also eyeing a 2016 run. SMU political science professor Cal Jillson says that while Perry is trying a more intellectual policy approach to the nomination, Cruz is taking an emotional path.

"Cruz is the emotional favorite of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party," Jillson says. 

Speaking to a riled up crowd holding signs with his name, Cruz said it’s time to make D.C. listnen.

“Like Reagan said, ‘If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.’” 

Cruz, says former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, has proven to be the Goliath, taking on Washington and defending the Constitution at every turn. 

Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News
Former Senator Jim DeMint at the RedState gathering in Fort Worth, TX.

DeMint, who now runs the Heritage Foundation, says the two Texas politicians share the core conservative ideas, but have different styles.

"Both Perry and Cruz are in good places on the conservative side," DeMint says, "So it'll give America a choice if they both decide to run." 

Both Cruz and Perry head to Iowa -- and its first-in-the-nation caucus-goers in 2016 -- this weekend.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.